Trump administration still hasn't reported Sessions exit, Whitaker pick to proper federal agency
Donald Trump already has an “acting attorney general,” and he just announced his intent to nominate William Barr to lead the Justice Department, yet the agency still hasn’t properly reported Jeff Sessions’ resignation from the post last month to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Sessions’ exit and the elevation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general were both required to be officially reported through paperwork filed with the GAO under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. That’s important, in part, because the GAO tracks the length of service of government officials and receiving the filing starts the clock running on when someone’s position officially begins and ends. As Buzzfeed News reports, the GAO is then tasked with informing Congress when someone surpasses the amount of time they are allowed to serve in a certain position.
A non-Senate-confirmed acting AG is typically allowed to serve 210 days, although once the president nominates someone to become attorney general, additional time is allowed for the acting attorney general to remain. Chris Geidner writes:
Neither the White House nor the Justice Department has been willing to make public the presidential memorandum appointing Whitaker, so the lack of notification is a further irregularity that makes the process behind Trump’s decision to appoint Whitaker less transparent and less easily understood.
It is even more notable that the reporting requirement has not been taken care of in light of the fact that there are multiple legal challenges to Whitaker’s authority that are pending in courts across the nation, up to and including the Supreme Court.
In addition to that lack of transparency, it’s worth remembering that the Justice Department remains mum on Whitaker’s role in overseeing the Russia investigation.
Since Trump appointed Whitaker last month, the Justice Department has refused to say if he has consulted ethics officials, or plans to, about whether he should recuse himself from the Russia probe.