Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed an amicus brief today on behalf of the attorney’s general of 15 states seeking an injunction to block the appointment of Matthew G. Whitaker as acting U.S. attorney general.
The amicus brief supports the original suit filed two weeks ago by Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh which contended that President Trump’s installation of Whitaker runs afoul of the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, which mandates that “principal” senior officials, such as the attorney general, be confirmed by the Senate.
Maryland also noted that Whitaker’s appointment violates a specific federal law that details the line of succession and automatically gives the acting role to the deputy attorney general when the attorney general position is vacated.
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Joining Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia in the amicus brief supporting the preliminary injunction were Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.
In announcing the filing of the brief, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro explained why it was so vital to institute the injunction.
“The naming of Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General is unlawful, and his appointment threatens the legitimacy of the Department’s actions and its vital relationship with the States,” Shapiro said. “I’ve filed in court to protect Pennsylvania’s interests and immediately prevent actions of an illegitimate Attorney General whose decisions could be invalidated.”
In addition to the Maryland lawsuit, a separate legal complaint has also been filed by three Democratic senators making essentially the same argument. Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who would need to confirm anyone in charge of the Justice Department, filed a lawsuit arguing that Whitaker’s appointment violates the “advice and consent” role of the Senate that is part of the Constitution’s Appointment Clause.
With Whitaker already in place as acting attorney general, it remains to be seen how quickly the courts will move to rule in either of the two cases seeking his removal. With the fate of the Mueller investigation hanging in the balance, one can only hope that a favorable ruling is issued as soon as humanly possible.
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Original reporting by NBC10 Philadelphia staff.