Matt Whitaker once prosecuted Iowa’s first gay senator
President Donald Trump has appointed Matt Whitaker as acting Attorney General after requesting Jeff Sessions’ resignation on Wednesday (November 7).
The Iowa native, who has developed a reputation as a Trump loyalist, has been serving as Sessions’ chief of staff since September 2017.
His appointment came a month after writing an opinion column for CNN, where he sometimes offered legal commentary, titled “Mueller’s Investigation of Trump is Going Too Far.”
Trump has now entrusted Whitaker, a former college football player whose Twitter cover photo shows him flexing his muscles, to oversee the probe into outside interference in the 2016 presidential election led by special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
The appointment to the top of the Department of Justice brought attention to Whitaker’s past responsibilities. Reporters were quick to exhume comments Whitaker stated in 2014, when he ran in Iowa’s Republican primary for US Senate and said that judges must be “people of faith” and have “a biblical view of justice,” as The Daily Beast reported at the time.
Who is Matt Whitaker?
A law school graduate, Whitaker first ran for political office as a Republican party candidate in the 2002 race for Treasurer of Iowa. He lost the vote to incumbent Democrat Michael Fitzgerald, but two years later Whitaker was appointed to the position of US Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa by President George W. Bush.
“Trading in one extremist for a newer model.”
For the first two years in the role, Whitaker led an investigation into Iowa’s first openly gay lawmaker and LGBT+ rights advocate, Democrat Senator Matt McCoy, who was serving his third term in the state senate.
Whitaker took what was regarded as the “unprecedented” step of indicting McCoy on charges of extortion, for which he faced fines of up to $250,000 and 20 years imprisonment.
Writing about the case in December 2007, a columnist for the Des Moines Register noted that the investigation “has all the earmarks of a politically motivated witch hunt.” Somewhat ironically, Whitaker would end up using the words “witch hunt” in writing for CNN a decade later about the Mueller investigation.
How did Matt McCoy react to Whitaker’s appointment?
Senator McCoy has clearly not forgotten the treatment received from Whitaker. He commented on the news of his appointment on Twitter on Wednesday, writing: “Trading in one extremist for a newer model.”
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Ahead of his trial in 2007, McCoy told The Advocate he believed Whitaker’s investigation to be politically motivated, an attempt by the attorney to show his loyalty to the Bush administration.
“Since coming out as an openly gay man I have been a continuous target of groups targeting gays to advance their own agendas of intolerance and hate,” McCoy told the publication, adding: “Clearly, there is significant speculation about what has motivated federal officials to take this action against me.”
McCoy was accused of attempting to gain $100 from every single installation of a home security system, for a total $2,000. The jury cleared him of the allegations in less than two hours.