The FBI is investigating a ‘scam’ company that paid a multimillion dollar fine and had on its board Trump’s designated acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker.
Trump’s appointment of Whitaker as the nation’s top law enforcement officer this week followed the forced resignation of attorney general Jeff Sessions – in a move that critics howled was designed to seize control of the Russia probe.
But Whitaker’s role on the board of World Patent Marketing Inc also has drawn scrutiny. The Federal Trade Commission accused the firm of scamming its members, and received a $26 million judgement against it to settle fraud allegations.
Whitaker served as a paid advisor and also wrote an email in 2015 warning an angry customer not to complain in public or face consequences.
The FBI is investigating a ‘scam’ company that paid a multimillion dollar fine and had on its board Trump’s designated acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker
Trump tweeted the above on Friday evening. Whitaker now oversees the FBI, but ethics experts state it is certain he would have to recuse himself from the case
Trump tweeted Friday night: ‘Matthew G. 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. Likewise, as Chief, I did not know Mr. Whitaker except primarily as he traveled with A.G. Sessions. No social contact…’
The Wall Street Journal reported the probe, which is being conducted by the bureau’s Miami field office, along with postal inspectors.
A July 2017 letter from the FBI to an alleged victim stated: ‘This case is currently under investigation by the FBI as well as the United States Postal Inspection Service. A criminal investigation can be a lengthy undertaking, and, for several reasons, we cannot tell you about its progress at this time. A victim of a federal crime is entitled to receive certain services.’
Whitaker now oversees the FBI, but ethics experts state it is certain he would have to recuse himself from the case.
Whitaker now has oversight over the FBI, but would almost certainly have to recuse himself from a probe of a company that paid him to be on its board
‘I didn’t speak to Matt Whitaker’ about the Mueller probe, President Trump said
News of the FBI probe comes as Whitaker is already facing pressure from Democrats to recuse himself from the Russia probe, following the emergence of a raft of his public statements criticizing special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry.
By forcing the resignation of Sessions, Trump caused oversight of the probe to transfer from deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to Whitaker.
Democrats are claiming Trump has already forced a constitutional crisis. They have bee joined by conservative legal scholars who note that Whitaker has never been confirmed by the Senate to a senior oversight role.
The FBI contacted a ‘possible victim of a crime’ involving the company
The bureau referenced a ‘large number of victims
The letter gave information about victim notification for the alleged ‘scam’
‘As an unconfirmed political appointee, Mr Whitaker has not been subject to the scrutiny that the Constitution requires to ensure that he has the character, integrity and ability to fulfill the grave responsibilities of this job,’ Senate Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer wrote Trump on Friday.
‘These concerns are heightened by specific expressions of bias against the special counsel investigation that Mr Whitaker made just last year,’ he added.
Whitaker, a former US attorney in Iowa, got paid $9,375 for his role, and he was listed on a company web site to bolster its reputation.
‘That advisory board was thrown up on World Patent Marketing website as a way of luring consumers,’ class action lawyer Joe LoPiccolo.
Whitaker wrote a dunning letter in August 2015 to an angry customer, warning that a complaint to the Better Business Bureau would amount to ‘smearing’ the company, the Miami New Times reported.
Whitaker threatened it could result in “serious civil and criminal consequences.” But the angry customer also had a legal background.
‘I don’t know Matt Whitaker,’ Trump said of the new acting attorney general he named who has gained control of the Russia probe
“I am a former United States attorney… You are a party [to] a scam,’ he wrote. ‘Do not email me again with your scare tactics,’ he wrote Whitaker.
Trump on Friday defended his decision to name Whitaker as ‘acting attorney general’ with oversight over the Robert Mueller probe.
‘I don’t know Whitaker,’ Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House as he headed to Paris.
He called Whitaker as ‘highly thought of’ but denied ever taking his pulse over the Russia probe – which he now will oversee following Trump’s decision to force out attorney general Jeff Sessions and sideline oversight that had been given by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.
Democratic attorneys general for 17 states and Washington, D.C. wrote Whitaker Thursday demanding he recuse himself from the Russia probe – something Sessions had done, which infuriated President Trump.
George Conway III, a prominent lawyer, penned an op-ed in the New York Times along with former solicitor general Neal Katyal, arguing that Trump’s power play at the Justice Department is ‘unconstitutional.’
Whitaker has spoken critically about the Mueller probe and spoke in a TV interview about choking off its funding.
He also was not confirmed by the Senate, since he does not hold one of the top posts that meet this bar. According to Conway, this come in violation of the Constitution’s appointments clause.
‘Mr. Whitaker’s installation makes a mockery of our Constitution and our founders’ ideals,’ the men wrote.
‘President Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional,’ they wrote. ‘It’s illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid.