Washington, D.C. — Today, the American Constitution Society (ACS) released an open sign-on letter from more than 1,600 attorneys nationwide calling on Members of Congress and Justice Department officials to protect the rule of law and the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The legal community criticized President Trump’s move to replace Jeff Sessions with Matt Whitaker, as U.S. Attorney General. Whitaker has been a vocal critic of the Russia investigation.
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“A number of very well-respected lawyers from across the political spectrum have called into question whether Whitaker's entire appointment is unconstitutional,” says ACS President Caroline Fredrickson. "They believe that this action threatens rule of law in this country and, for the moment, he must recuse."
In their call for Congress to protect the Russia inquiry and to check President Trump’s attempts to obstruct it, the letter’s signatories note that, as Acting Attorney General, Whitaker could take steps to severely damage the probe, such as choking off its funding or blocking promising avenues of investigation. They point to President Nixon’s 1973 ‘Saturday Night Massacre’, in light of Whitaker’s past statements that Mueller is over-reaching and how an acting Attorney General, theoretically, could handicap that investigation.
Find the full letter, below, and at www.acslaw.org.
November 9, 2018
An Open Letter from The Legal Community to Members of Congress and the American People
Nothing is more central to our democracy than the rule of law. As the Supreme Court declared, over 200 years ago, in Marbury v. Madison, “the government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men.” No person is above the law, including the President of the United States. The President, in fact, has the explicit constitutional obligation to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Indeed, he is bound by his oath to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Constitution “to the best of [his] ability."
Inspired by these principles, we, the undersigned members of the legal profession, hereby, stand up in defense of the rule of law and against President Donald Trump’s outrageous attempts to undermine the investigation of possible wrongdoing that involves the President’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government.
President Trump’s removal of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is clearly a maneuver to obstruct or to end Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible illegal activities by the President’s campaign. The Mueller investigation has already uncovered serious crimes committed by the President’s closest associates. Having now removed Atty. Sessions, President Trump appointed Matthew Whitaker to serve as Acting Attorney General.
Publicly, Whitaker has mused about how an acting AG could defund the Mueller investigation. He has also published op-eds that say Atty. Mueller’s investigation has gone too far and that it should be limited. Whitaker has the potential to end or to severely undermine the investigation, in ways that could be hidden from the public.
The Special Counsel’s investigations into Russian interference in our nation’s democratic processes must be allowed to continue. They must continue, even if they implicate persons or institutions connected to the President, to his campaign, or to his businesses. To allow the independence of the prosecutorial function in this nation to be sacrificed, to protect the President, endangers the very rule of law, on which our nation and our Constitution are based.
We, therefore, demand that:
- Acting AG Whitaker recuse himself or otherwise be removed from overseeing the Mueller investigation, as a result of his profound ethical conflicts;
- Congress hold the President accountable, through oversight, and pass legislation to protect the Mueller investigation; and
- Any future Attorney General nominated by President Trump pledge to protect the Mueller investigation.
A generation ago, President Richard Nixon assaulted the rule of law, by firing a prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. But his attack on our democracy was thwarted, by dedicated public servants, independent and impartial courts, aggressive bipartisan congressional oversight, and an overwhelming public outcry, led, in no small part, by lawyers from every branch of our profession. So, must it be, in our time. This is our challenge and responsibility.
Accordingly, we, the undersigned attorneys, pledge to do all that is in our power to ensure that President Trump is held accountable for his attacks on the rule of law. We will litigate, engage in peaceful protests, and take advantage of our role as community leaders, to promote understanding of the rule of law and the seriousness of the current situation. We will make our voices heard in the media, within our bar associations and other civic associations, and we will call on our representatives in Congress to speak out, as well.
We will defend the rule of law from all who seek to undermine it. We call on you to join us.
American Constitution Society
Founded in 2001, the American Constitution Society (ACS) is a leading progressive legal organization and a rapidly growing network of attorneys, law students, scholars, judges, policymakers, and other concerned individuals, dedicated to making the law a force to improve people’s lives. For more information about the organization or its 200+ attorney and law student chapters in 48 states, visit www.acslaw.org.
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