Several powerful Democratic members of the House of Representatives issued a press release Wednesday evening saying that they are beginning an probe into possible illegal actions by acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. Specifically they will be investigating Whitaker’s involvement in a company that was deemed to be a scam by federal law enforcement agencies.
“Because Mr. Whitaker was not confirmed by the Senate, both Republican and Democratic constitutional law experts warned that his appointment was, and continues to be, unconstitutional,” Reps. Elijah Cummings (Md.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) , Frank Pallone, Jr. (N.J), and Adam Schiff (Calif.) said in the joint release.
“In addition, because the Senate was not given an opportunity to properly vet Mr. Whitaker’s background, serious questions are now arising about his fitness to serve in this position of trust.”
The Democrats who signed the statement are some of the most powerful in Washington. When the new Congress convenes in January:
- Cummings is likely to to become chairman of the House Oversight Committee
- Nadler is likely to to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee,
- Schaff is likely to to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and
- Pallone is likely to to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
As chairs of these powerful committees they will have vast powers to subpoena witnesses and to launch investigations. They will be able to operate independent of and parallel to the Department of Justice which Whitaker now is in charge of.
The four Congressmen said that they have mailed seven letters and they hope to receive back documents with information about Whitaker’s role at World Patent Marketing. The letters were sent to people with knowledge of the company’s operations including Whitaker and the former founder and CEO of the company.
Whitaker reportedly received monthly payments of $1,875 for serving on the company’s advisory board.
His role in World Patent Marketing has been under increasing scrutiny over the past week since Whitaker was appointed to his current role as acting attorney general. World Patent Marketing allegedly “bilked thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars” by promising inventors lucrative patent agreements, according to a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in March 2017. The company did not admit or deny wrongdoing in the settlement.
The FTC shut down the company and ordered it to pay a $26 million settlement in May after accusing it of duping aspiring inventors. Whitaker reportedly was involved in such a way to assist the scam operations.
For example, the congressmen expressed concerns over reports that Whitaker had sent an email to a former customer who had complained about the company in August 2015. Whitaker’s email was reportedly very threatening and was intended to intimidate the person who had complained about being scammed.
A spokesperson for the Justice Department said last week that Whitaker “has said he was not aware of any fraudulent activity.”