Whitaker Facing Investigation for Hatch Act Violations

The problems of acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker keep piling up. Already he has gotten into hot water for past comments that were critical of the Mueller probe. Then he found out that he is being investigated for fraud by House Democrats. And several senators have brought a lawsuit saying his appointment is unconstitutional.

President Trump, of course, won’t back down. He has said he is sticking by Whitaker no matter what happens. He also said in an interview last Sunday that he would not intervene if Whitaker moved to curtail Mueller’s investigation.

And now there is a new federal investigation into possibly illegal contributions Whitaker received in January and February of this year for a failed U.S. Senate campaign in Iowa in 2014. For some odd reason, he received thousands of dollars of donations for the 2014 campaign this year, after he had been employed in the U.S. Department of Justice as the assistant to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Federal investigators are looking into whether Whitaker’s accepting of the donations violated the Hatch Act’s prohibitions on political activities by federal employees.

A spokesperson for the Office of Special Counsel confirmed to CNN that it had received a complaint from the watchdog organization American Oversight and a case file had been opened. The office has the power to investigate Hatch Act violations and determine possible reprimands, but cannot take disciplinary action itself, according to CNN.

“After years of being completely dormant and only after he joined Jeff Sessions’ office as chief of staff, Whitaker’s campaign started receiving a cluster of contributions,” Austin Evers, the executive director of American Oversight, told CNN. “It appears to violate the black-letter law of the Hatch Act.”

Neither the Office of Special Counsel nor the Department of Justice have made any public comments about the matter. The Office of Special Counsel is an independent agency separate from the Justice Department.

William Gustoff, the former treasurer for Whitaker’s Senate campaign, told CNN that neither he nor Whitaker had solicited the donations and that the campaign committee remained open to deal with remaining debt.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former federal prosecutor, also asked the Office of Special Counsel Wednesday to investigate Whitaker for Hatch Act violations stemming from the donations.

“The Hatch Act places limitations on the ability of executive branch employees to participate in political activities,” Whitehouse said in a press release.  “On their face, the political contributions to Whitaker’s campaign fund violate the Hatch Act. Whitaker had been in his position at [the Justice Department] three months before these contributions were made to his campaign committee and should be presumed to have been advised of his responsibilities under this law.”