The Latest: Trump tweets in Whitaker’s defense in turnabout

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker (all times local):

11:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump still has acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on his mind, even though he is on a trip to France for events marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. Trump tweeted late Friday that Whitaker is “a highly respected former U.S. Attorney from Iowa. He was chosen by Jeff Sessions to be his Chief of Staff. I did not know Mr. Whitaker.” But he added that Whitaker was well regarded by several Iowa leaders and said: “I feel certain he will make an outstanding Acting Attorney General!”

8:15 p.m.

The Wall Street Journal has published an email disclosing an FBI investigation into an invention promotion company tied to acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.

The email was sent last year by an FBI victims’ specialist to someone who the newspaper says was an alleged victim of the company, World Patent Marketing Inc., on which Whitaker served as an advisory board member.

The email shows that the criminal investigation involved the FBI’s Miami field office.

The Journal says the company was accused of scamming millions from customers. A Justice Department spokeswoman told the newspaper that Whitaker was not aware of any fraudulent conduct.

Whitaker was appointed acting attorney general on Wednesday after President Donald Trump pushed out Jeff Sessions as the country’s chief law enforcement officer. Whitaker had been Sessions’ chief of staff.

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4:30 p.m.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins is calling on the Senate to pass legislation protecting special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Collins said in a statement Friday that she’s concerned about comments made by Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, whom President Donald Trump appointed after he fired Jeff Sessions this week. Whitaker, expected to temporarily oversee Mueller’s investigation, has criticized the probe.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said Thursday that he will try to force a vote next week on legislation that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year that would attempt to protect Mueller. The bill would give special counsels a 10-day window to seek review of a firing.

Flake can ask to bring up the bill, but any senator can object.

Collins says the bill “would send a powerful message.”

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1 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he expects President Donald Trump to nominate a new attorney general “pretty quickly” after Trump fired Jeff Sessions earlier this week.

Speaking in Kentucky on Friday, McConnell said he expects acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to be “a very interim” attorney general.

Democrats have criticized Whitaker for comments he has made in the past that were critical of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and have called for legislation to protect Mueller. McConnell said that’s not needed because the probe will be allowed to finish.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday sent a letter to Trump questioning the legality of Whitaker’s appointment, since he was not confirmed by the Senate.

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10:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump is moving to distance himself from Matthew Whitaker as he faces criticism over his choice for acting attorney general.

Trump told reporters Friday “I don’t know Matt Whitaker” and said he didn’t speak with Whitaker about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Whitaker has made public comments critical of Mueller’s investigation, and critics have called on Whitaker to recuse himself from oversight of the inquiry. Under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the investigation was overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Of the scrutiny Whitaker is facing, Trump said: “It’s a shame that no matter who I put in they go after.”

He also called Whitaker “a very highly respected man.” Whitaker was Sessions’ chief of staff before Trump made him Sessions’ interim replacement.

Associated Press

Associated Press

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