Why does Whitaker believe the regulation establishing Special Counsels is deeply flawed? How does it threaten “accountability to the chain of command”?
And how are Russia’s very real attempts to interfere in U.S. elections often conflated with now debunked claims of “Russia-Trump collusion”? And how is communist China the far greater threat?
In this episode, we sit down with former acting AG Matthew Whitaker. He is the author of the new book “Above the Law: The Inside Story of How the Justice Department Tried to Subvert President Trump.”
This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Matthew Whitaker, such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Matthew Whitaker: Jan, thank you for having me today.
Mr. Jekielek: And thank you for joining me. We’re filming on Memorial Day here. I appreciate you taking the time. I know you’ve got a lot of hits going on. I had the pleasure of reading your book over the weekend. And wow. If there’s one thing that hits me with it, it kind of showcases what I would describe as the raw power of the administrative state in action. There’s been debate about the “deep state.” Does it exist? Does it not exist? Your book seems to have a lot to say about that.
Mr. Whitaker: Yeah, and one of the things when I became a US attorney that I realized about the people that were there that were career professionals is that they had an attitude that, “You know, we’re here when you got here and we’ll be here when you’re gone.” And … I took that to Washington, D.C. understanding the … small r resistance that you would encounter as you try to accomplish an agenda. … One of the things that I say about President Trump is he’s certainly someone that’s continuing to drive his agenda and get it accomplished. And I think I outline in my book some of the examples, whether it was in the immigration space or other spaces, where we did encounter some of the slowness and the kind of molasses in January, where you just had a hard time driving and getting things accomplished. I wrote this book … not only to chronicle my experience, but also to have it be an accurate historical account of what happened during the first two years of President Trump’s term.
Mr. Jekielek: And before we dive into the book, of course, you mention the case against General Flynn, which now… there’s been a motion to dismiss it, but there’s been all sorts of unexpected twists and turns along the way, and I thought I’d get you to comment about where we are today. The judge is seeking legal counsel to defend against the higher court. Please help us understand what’s going on here.
Mr. Whitaker: Well, it’s quite simple. Judge Sullivan [is] in the [District Court for] the District of Columbia—D.D.C. as we call it inside the Department of Justice. The judge has essentially created an extrajudicial process, which means that it’s inconsistent with the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rule 48, which governs dismissals, essentially says that when the government no longer wants to prosecute a case based on its prosecutorial discretion, that the judge upon motion shall dismiss the case. This judge has decided to create a process that doesn’t work [and] is inconsistent with really every piece of American law or case law that I know of. And rightfully, General Flynn’s counsel has filed for a writ of mandamus, and a writ of mandamus is very simply an order that tells a government official to do their job consistent with the rules and the law. And so the appeals court has asked … Judge Sullivan to address this and defend his extrajudicial order. I fully expect that once Judge Sullivan’s lawyer, who is retained to argue his position, once the case is fully heard by the appeals court, that they will issue that writ of mandamus and order him to dismiss the case based on the Department of Justice’s motion.
Mr. Jekielek: How common is it for a sitting judge in a case to get a lawyer to defend against the request of a higher court?
Mr. Whitaker: It’s very rare, Jan. I mean, I have never seen a judge that hires counsel to argue the judge’s position in how to administer their caseload, especially a particular case. I mean, it’s an extraordinary moment in time. … It’s not going to last long [in] the Supreme Court especially, but I expect the appeals court is also not going to listen much to this, because again, it’s inconsistent with American law. If suddenly the judiciary can step in the shoes of the Department of Justice and pursue and prosecute cases, that would be an extraordinary moment in American jurisprudence. And really, the separation of powers and what was created in our beautiful system of a constitutional republic would suddenly fall forever and be irreparably damaged. So I expect that this will not last very long, based on everything I know, not only about the case, but also about how the system is supposed to work according to the rules.
Mr. Jekielek: So let’s talk about the other side very briefly, about the FBI. There’s going to be an inquiry into the handling of the case. Christopher Wray has announced that. What do you think will happen here?
Mr. Whitaker: Everything I know about this is that Chris Wray has set up a review of the General Flynn investigation. I think … a lot of Americans feel that it’s awfully late, that [it] should have been done sooner. But it’s better late than never. … That motion to dismiss [General Flynn] was filed by the Department of Justice. [There are] over 100 pages outlining all of the abuses and corners that were cut by Jim Comey, Andy McCabe, and others at the Department of Justice–two of the three are on the cover of my new book. And I think [the review] was appropriate. If it was going to ever happen, this was an appropriate moment to start the review.
I think we deserve and Americans want a full accounting, and they also want people to be held responsible. And I think based on what the filing said, and solely on what the filing says, there were several instances where the rules and regular order were not followed. And this is what I talk about in my book and what the solution is to make sure this doesn’t happen again is to make sure the Department of Justice follows its own rules and regulations but also follows regular order. And … if we can restore that, which I think Bill [William] Barr is doing a great job of, when we restore regular order to Department of Justice, a project that I started when I was Acting Attorney General, I think ultimately, that the Department of Justice will return to its proper place of respect and admiration within law enforcement.
Mr. Jekielek: One thing I’m just thinking of is, some months ago, I did an interview with Victor Davis Hanson where he mentioned … that the people on the cover, for example, of the book and many more don’t actually have their jobs anymore. And that that’s some semblance of accountability. Do you think there will be more accountability than that?
Mr. Whitaker: Jan, this is a great question, and this is one of the things that not only I talk about in the book, but as I’ve gotten around the United States after I left the Department of Justice in March of 2019, people would ask, “When is somebody gonna be held accountable?” And I would point out that not only do the three people on the cover of my book, Jim Comey, Andy [Andrew] McCabe, and Peter Strzok, no longer have their jobs and all of them were terminated, but others have left and really many of the people that brought about this situation have left the Department of Justice or been terminated.
So there are different levels of accountability. Obviously, if there is evidence of a crime being committed, then folks should be prosecuted. And I know that John Durham [is also conducting an] investigation. [He] is the US Attorney out of Connecticut that’s been appointed by General Barr to review the origins of the investigation. We are told that there are criminal targets of that investigation. That’s a good step. There are also people that maybe didn’t commit criminal acts, but did wrongdoing. And I think it’s very important for really the future of our republic, that we hang a lantern over those folks who did wrong and make sure that we not only hold them accountable as to however we can, whether that’s through ethics complaints or otherwise, but ultimately that everybody that brought this national nightmare of what became the Mueller investigation and all of its twists and turns are held accountable.
I think it also is very important that members of the press, that breathlessly reported all of the twists and turns and wild speculation about that period of time, that claimed they had multiple sources that said the opposite of what ultimately the Muller report said, that those members of the press also be called out and examined for how wrong they were and how difficult they made that for many American citizens that just knew that there wasn’t any evidence of collusion. That includes members of Congress like Adam Schiff, I think, [and] all the people that were saying one thing in private, but were saying an entirely different thing in public, and that was not good for our republic.
Mr. Jekielek: … To your point, there’s a window, the transcripts of some of the testimonies [from] behind closed doors came out. What was being said publicly was radically different, we discovered, than what was actually said in closed quarters and under oath.
Mr. Whitaker: You’re absolutely right, Jan, and … I think we finally have all of the pieces and parts. If you think about what we had access to at the Department of Justice at the time, sort of all those individuals that testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee, those transcripts were not available until they were just declassified. We’re just learning about Susan Rice and her email that she wrote on January 20, Inauguration Day, that recorded and memorialized a January 5th meeting in 2017, in the waning days of the Obama administration, and what that says as to the President, the Vice President, Director of the FBI, the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, who was the Acting Attorney General at the time, all of them were in the room, in the Oval Office, talking about General Flynn’s investigation. I think all of these things are just new pieces and parts to the overall picture that I think it makes it very clear, not only what happened to General Flynn and the reason for the dismissal of his case, but ultimately what breathed new life into the counterintelligence investigation that became the Mueller investigation that ultimately yielded no evidence of any relationship between the Trump campaign, members of the Trump campaign, and the Russian government.
Mr. Jekielek: So let’s talk about something in this vein that you talk about in the book that you got a lot of flack for and that’s, you’ll remember the line, “abuse of power is not a crime.” But you know, even as I read that now, I feel uncomfortable with that. Right? Abuse of power: it sounds terrible.
Mr. Whitaker: Yeah. And this is so important, though. And … when I said that, it was in the context of the idea that the House was going to impeach President Trump on a theory of abuse of power. And if you remember, the constitutional standard for impeachment is “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and we all suddenly got lessons in what our founding fathers believed about the term “high crimes and misdemeanors.” We heard all about Alexander Hamilton [who], depending which part of The Federalist Papers you quote, either was for abuse of power being a high crime and misdemeanor or was against abuse of power being a high crime and misdemeanor. And we learned about what James Madison and James Monroe and all these folks said.
But the long story short, my sole point in saying that was to say that abuse of power doesn’t have any elements. When I’m a prosecutor and we have to charge a crime, you have elements of those crimes that you measure the facts to. And in the case of abuse of power, there are no elements, and so therefore, it can be anything that Congress wants it to be. And I think that’s dangerous. I think that if you’re at a standard where it’s whatever Congress feels like and that there is no objective comparison between the facts and the law, … again, it diminishes the role of Congress, it makes them look petty and political.
And that’s exactly what it ended up being, a complete partisan political process that ultimately did not help our country in any way. And ultimately, the President was exonerated by the Senate by a majority of senators. Nowhere close to the constitutional standard of two-thirds of the Senate voted in favor of [his impeachment]. And so I just feel like it was a complete waste of time and inconsistent with the law, which is so important. And this is one of the themes–I know since you’ve read the book, Jan, and I really appreciate you reading it–one of the themes that I talk about is that we have to be a nation of laws, and we have to obey the rule of law.
Mr. Jekielek: Something that actually you make a case for, I think there’s a whole chapter kind of dedicated to this, is the idea of the special counsel itself inherently, and this is something that you essentially oppose. You don’t like this role, or at least in its current incarnation. You have some other ideas about how this type of role should be run.
Mr. Whitaker: I do, and what I know is that in our constitutional system, the President of the United States, who has won the election based on the Electoral College, is the single head of the executive branch. And I talk about this idea of a unitary theory of the executive, which is essentially that all power emanates in the executive branch from the President. And I think the special counsel regulation at the Department of Justice, which was put in place after the independent counsel statute in 1999 [the Ethics in Government Act] expired and was not renewed, makes a very dangerous system of unaccountability to the chain of command.
And I think about how everyone serves at the pleasure of the President in the Department of Justice, especially the political appointees, the career officials. Obviously there’s civil service protections, but they still can’t abuse their power or do things that are inconsistent with the law. The special counsel is essentially a bolt-on piece to the Department of Justice that can easily be handled by one of the 93 US attorneys or any other of the various prosecutors that we have at the Department of Justice. So not only do I feel like the appointment of Bob Mueller in this case of the special counsel in the investigation into the President of the United States for being an agent of Russia, which saying that just sounds as ridiculous as the theory was, but I think that long term, there needs to be reform where the special counsel regulation is not only rewritten, but probably just eliminated, and the Department of Justice uses its tools and its powers consistent[ly] so that the chain of command by and through the Attorney General as the Head of the Department of Justice can be exercised fully. And so I look at this as a very important reform. I think we saw how it was abused and manipulated by people like Jim Comey. And I think we need to make sure this never happens again, Jan.
Mr. Jekielek: Do you see any indications of reform in this area?
Mr. Whitaker: I do. … General Barr has made some statements that any investigation into a candidate for president or the President will need to be approved at the highest levels of the Department of Justice. That’s one of the problems. If you think about [it]: the President fired Jim Comey consistent with his constitutional powers. And then the Acting Director of the FBI, Andy McCabe, just determined solely and on his own that the President of the United States was then a target of the Russia collusion fable investigation. And so when that happened, the Deputy Attorney General determined that a special counsel would be appointed. And … again, I think that’s what led us down this almost two-year national nightmare. … We did not have to do that.
A decision to put the President as a target, a criminal target of an investigation, should be made by the highest levels of the Department of Justice and should be well considered, should not be sudden, and should not be in a panicked decision-making process. I think all of those decisions need to be reviewed. I hope that Durham and his investigation and General Barr and the overall administration of the Department of Justice can look at these decisions, demonstrate and explain where the poor judgment was made, and hopefully this lesson not only is learned, but we make sure this never happens again to a President of the United States.
Mr. Jekielek: In the book, you kind of describe this time when you realize that the Muller investigation had been “sitting on its findings long after its determinations had been made.” I kind of pulled that line from the book. When exactly did you realize that?
Mr. Whitaker: So if you remember, General [Jeff] Sessions had recused from the investigation, and since I was his chief of staff starting in October of 2017, his recusal applied to me as well, since the career and ethics officials determined that no one in the Attorney General’s office had a need to know or be involved in that investigation. But when General Sessions resigned, and I became the Acting Attorney General, I was immediately placed in charge of the Mueller investigation. And so, not immediately but soon thereafter, I was briefed on the contours and what was the Mueller investigation, and I was told that there was essentially no evidence of any criminal conspiracy or connection or collusion, whatever you want to call it, between the Trump campaign, members of the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump, and the Russian government.
So therefore, the primary and sole purpose of that investigation had essentially failed to generate any evidence. And … it was clear that that had been known for some time. I look back actually, Jan, and I think not only of the Mueller report, I think of what I was told in December of 2018. I think about these Obama era officials in the House Intelligence Committee saying the exact same thing, that they had no evidence. I think about the fact that Peter Strzok, one of the people on the cover of my new book, plus Lisa Page were texting saying that there’s “no there there.” And then I also think about that on January the 4th, that this investigation was proposed to be closed at the FBI because it had generated no evidence. And so that to me is a line that can be connected throughout the entire time of this investigation.
This is where we didn’t follow regular orders [for the] Department of Justice, because there should have been someone along the way [who] says that not only was there never any evidence, but we developed no new evidence and so therefore, this investigation must be closed. … There were so many people involved that could and should have made that decision, and to me, it looks as if it was kept open to harass this president, to undo the 2016 election, and to create an obstruction of justice trap, Jan.
And this is one of the things that Devin Nunes has been very clear about. Last week, he wrote a New York Post op-ed talking about my book and talking about this obstruction of justice trap that was set, not only for the President, but for myself and others, that if we had tried to put our thumb on the scale or somehow in their perception interfere with the Mueller investigation that they were ready, willing, and able to go after any of us, and so I just think that’s a very dangerous precedent. …I think it was inappropriate for them to do that, to set that trap. And again, I keep coming back to this theme, Jan, but I think it’s one of the important themes: … we need to not only learn these lessons, but make sure this never happens again.
Mr. Jekielek: And presumably that’s the reason you didn’t end the investigation, because you didn’t want to get caught in the trap?
Mr. Whitaker: Yeah, this is something that obviously, I reflect on and have reflected on. But if you put yourself in my shoes in November of 2018, I’m in charge of the Russia investigation. I’m being told that the report is being finished. I’m being told that attempted obstruction of justice is not a valid legal theory. And I’m being told there’s no evidence of collusion. And so, from where I sat, there was no reason for me to do anything other than to just get the investigation concluded, which we worked hard every day to do, following regular order.
And I was really surprised when not only on February 14, when I handed over the reins to DOJ that I had not received the Mueller Report, which again, I had been promised several times over the course of those months that I was Acting Attorney General, but also Bill Barr spent six weeks waiting for the Mueller Report to be delivered to him. And he was unable to do anything to speed that process up. So … it seems to me that what the Mueller team was telling their supervisors was not consistent with what was actually going on inside the Mueller investigation. Again, there are individuals–the names are well known–that should answer these questions and should hopefully get called in front of [someone], whether it’s the Senate or whether it’s some other tribunal to find out why they weren’t being honest with the people that supervised them.
Mr. Jekielek: You mentioned AG Jeff Sessions’ recusal and I think in the book, I also pulled this, you describe it as “the worst thing to happen to the West Wing,” presumably one of the worst things that could happen. Could you just explain your thoughts around that? And what were the consequences?
Mr. Whitaker: … I was not there when the decision was made by General Sessions to recuse himself so all I know is much of what I read [or] what I learned after I joined the Department of Justice again. But what I talk about in this book is how General Sessions’ recusal essentially bifurcated the leadership at the Department of Justice. The Deputy Attorney General was the Acting Attorney General for certain investigations. Attorney General Sessions was there in charge of the rest of the Department of Justice and responsible for that part of it. … It caused essentially two leaders at the top of the Department of Justice. And it was very hard to operate in that environment.
One of the things that happened when I was made Acting Attorney General was a unification of the leadership structure at the Department of Justice and a return to the way it’s supposed to operate. And I think ultimately, I describe what was publicly reported, that as soon as the President learned that not only had General Sessions recused, but a special counsel [had] been appointed, I think he immediately thought that that was a great threat to his presidency, and again, it was unnecessary if it had been done the right way and consistent with [the] regular order at the Department of Justice.
Mr. Jekielek: I understand. I want to kind of switch gears a little bit. And there’s one line that caught me in the book here that I want you to kind of elaborate a bit on because you don’t in the book. But you describe a “surreal day when I entered the building as a chief of staff in the morning and left it that night with a security detail and armored Suburban as Acting Attorney General.” Can you tell me a bit, tell us a bit more about that day? How did that play out?
Mr. Whitaker: Well, so what happened, it was the day after the election in 2018, and I had stayed up and watched the results and obviously knew that the House had switched hands, as it does from time to time based on how the political winds blow and consistent with the way that our beautiful constitutional republic is designed. But I arrived to do my job as chief of staff and … went through the regular process. And late in the morning, I understood that General Sessions had received a call that was asking for his resignation. Not too long after that, I received a call from the President of the United States asking me to serve as the Acting Attorney General. And … it was a very busy day and lots of things happened.
One of the pictures that’s included in my book is my shaking hands with Attorney General Sessions on that last day. It was a mixed emotion day. Obviously, I was ready to do the role that had been assigned to me and to do it with a great enthusiasm and do it with honor. And I think history reflects that that’s exactly what I did. But at the same time, I knew that there were going to be some tough days. Obviously, it went into having an FBI security detail and two armored SUVs taking me everywhere I needed to go, which was much different from my experience as chief of staff, where I could be a little more anonymous, and go down to the lunchroom and enjoy lunch with my coworkers.
But that being said, obviously, it was an amazing time. And I use the word amazing in its traditional sense, of both wonderment [and] excitement, but also [of] trepidation and all sorts of risks that … would be almost a daily experience for me. But I was able to put my head down and do the job. And again, I think history records that not only did I do it to the best of my ability, but I did it with great honor, and it was a successful term when I handed it off to Bill Barr.
Mr. Jekielek: [There’s] another thing I wanted to ask you about. Congressman Devin Nunes wrote the introduction or preface to your book, and he mentions how this intelligence community assessment on Russian interference in the 2016 election was, according to him, revised at the last minute to assert that the Russian interference was to support Trump to win, right? So we’re aware … of this unpublished report that was made by the House Intelligence Committee while it was still held under Republican control that got stuck at the CIA Inspector General. And allegedly, it details strong intelligence (Fred Fleitz has talked about this and so forth) that the Russians actually acted to support Hillary Clinton. Are you aware of this? Any thoughts on this?
Mr. Whitaker: Well, I could have written an entire other book on the intelligence community. Obviously, my book is focused on the Department of Justice and the FBI. And so, I think the intelligence community … is not in the scope of my book. I am aware that obviously, the whole goal of the Russians in their attempted interference in the 2016 election was to sow chaos and to turn American citizens against each other. … One of the things that we must all remember is that they’ve done this since Ronald Reagan’s time and the Russian government, and other governments quite frankly, have done these types of things in order to frustrate and cause chaos in the United States.
And that’s why we need to be, every American citizen needs to be vigilant in receiving information about candidates and campaigns, and make sure you verify and trust your sources. Because what happened, if you think about Russia is, this is asymmetrical warfare by the Russians and others. The Chinese, the North Koreans, the Iranians, many folks do this type of thing, because we are the strongest, most powerful nation in the world, and no one can match us on the battlefield. And so the one way they try to weaken us is through these types of information warfare that’s conducted using very efficient means, including the internet where they can do these kinds of things on social media and otherwise.
But what we need to know is no vote … was changed in 2016 by any attempts at this. And we also need to know that in 2018, while I was at the Department of Justice, we combated these efforts. And so one of the questions that I’ve always had, … that no one’s fully explained is why did the Obama administration, during the election of 2016, watch what Russia and others were doing instead of taking proactive measures in order to combat these attempts to interfere with our election?
But this is where I get so frustrated, Jan, with the people on TV, especially on channels like CNN, MSNBC that conflate the idea of Russia attempting to sow discord and chaos into our election and [of] at the same time somehow… collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Those are two entirely separate issues. … Saying there’s no collusion and there’s no evidence of collusion does not say that the Russians didn’t attempt to do things. But the Russians are going to, like I said, attempt to do things in every election. And we need to be ever vigilant and every American citizen has a role in making sure that they distill what’s proper and appropriate information and be on the guard for this … information that is coming from Russian troll forums, Iranian troll forums, Chinese or wherever else it may come from. And so this is something that I’ve talked a lot about. But … I feel like people that are disingenuous, especially on the left, that try to do political damage to the President are always going to conflate the two issues, and … you can’t conflate them.
Mr. Jekielek: So let’s talk briefly about some of these people that were basically accused of being in league with the Russians. And there’s kind of a theme to this. Carter Page, of course, [George] Papadopoulos and of course, General Flynn, we’ve been talking about him. The theme to me that comes out of all this is there seems to be this constant withholding of exculpatory information, exculpatory evidence when there’s actually a case. It’s quite remarkable, just how often this seems to have happened, at least that’s what came out in the book for me.
Mr. Whitaker: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And I think one of the things that investigators and prosecutors, like when I was a US Attorney, you always have to guard against is confirmation bias, where you only see the evidence to prove what you already believe.
And you look at George Papadopoulos. He had … a conversation with an Australian intelligence or State Department member that was reported. If you read the actual communication, it does not look like George has any information. He’s pretty much speculating as to what he’s heard. That is what launched the counterintelligence investigation.
Carter Page, again, a Naval Academy grad, someone with a Ph.D., was believed, I guess, to be an agent of a foreign power. That’s the only way you can get a FISA warrant to surveil him. Three renewals were signed in addition to the original FISA application. I have heard no evidence that they were able to develop any documents, facts, or anything that shows that he was an agent of Russia.
And then you go to General Flynn [and] based on the Susan Rice email and other things, it appears that General Flynn was improperly targeted. There was no predication for an investigation into General Flynn, and ultimately, Jim Comey and others at the FBI didn’t follow regular procedures to conduct investigations of senior administration officials.
And I’ll boil this down for you, Jan. … It seems to me that the working theory was because President Trump, General Flynn, and others believe China was a bigger threat to the United States long term than Russia, which is what the Obama administration believed, that the Obama administration, including the President, the Vice President, FBI director, and others, concluded that somehow all of the Trump team were agents of Russia, because they felt that China was a bigger threat.
I can tell you based on my experience at the Department of Justice, China is a bigger threat. China has killed tens of thousands of Americans by supplying fentanyl, a powerful opioid, a deadly killer, to the United States over the last several years. China has stolen our intellectual property, … and attempted to use their technology to spy on American citizens. And now we have the coronavirus, which clearly originated from China. And we were not notified or information was not shared with the United States. And tens of thousands of American citizens have lost their lives there as well. So, I mean, I don’t think there’s any doubt that China is a bigger threat than the Russians.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t guard ourselves against all of our threats. And one of the things we realize at the federal government is you have to be able to do multiple tasks at the same time. But to have a foreign policy disagreement between a new administration and an old administration turn into the criminal investigation and destruction of individuals involved with the new administration I think it’s just, it’s disgusting, quite frankly.
Mr. Jekielek: We at the Epoch Times share your idea that China is the larger threat, probably the largest foreign threat.
Mr. Whitaker: No doubt. … This is something I’ve been talking about, I’ve written op-eds on, and I think American people need to reframe the threats that the Chinese pose to the United States of America … This is a battle for not only supremacy in the world, but for which system works. Do people have rights that they then create governments in order to protect those rights? Or does the government have all the power and subjugate the people, which is the Chinese system? You know, obviously, we love our liberties and freedoms here in the United States. We can’t imagine another way. But the world is watching. And if the United States doesn’t emulate the top ideals that we stand for, then obviously China wants to be an equal or dominant world superpower, and that includes reserve currency, that includes where banks are located, where centers of industry and commerce are located. So Jan, I can’t talk about this. …Again, I could write an entire other book on this issue, which is that China is and continues to be and is going to be for the next century, the largest threat the United States has to face.
Mr. Jekielek: So, we’re going to finish up in a little bit here. I wanted to comment on a couple of things. One thing you mentioned here earlier: your passion for the Constitution. You actually include the Constitution in your book as a testament to that. So I definitely believe you. The other part that you mentioned in here, a few times actually, is that your kind of strong position on religious freedom and the importance of that … any sort of commentary? Right now we’re in an interesting time. It’s COVID-19 lockdown, coronavirus lockdown. There’s this question: should people be allowed to gather to worship? How does the Constitution weigh in on this in your mind?
Mr. Whitaker: Well, there is no pandemic exception to our rights and our constitutional freedoms. And so, I start from there. And I also would suggest that if folks can be trusted to go to the grocery store, or go to the beach or wherever, they might want to safely practice the guidelines, whether that’s face coverings, social distancing, washing your hands, all the kind of things that we learned, those are the same people that go to church. Those are the same people that worship. And I feel like [for] Bible-believing Christians and people of all faiths, the practice of their religion is as important to them as it is to go to the grocery store or go to the beach, or whatever these states are allowing folks [to do].
And so we can’t have like we did in California, where Phase 2 allows many of these commercial activities, but Phase 3 is what waits for churches to reopen. Again, … these are the same people doing both things. And so, I have been an outspoken proponent of religious liberty and those constitutional protections. I think the Department of Justice is uniquely positioned to protect people of faith and protect their rights to assemble and to worship. And so, I’m an outspoken advocate, and I have recently been anywhere I can go to talk about this issue. I’ve been talking about this issue because it’s so important to me, and it’s so fundamental to our constitutional system.
Mr. Jekielek: Matt, any final words before we finish up?
Mr. Whitaker: No, … I appreciate the time, Jan. I appreciate your reading the book. I would recommend, obviously, anybody that can go out and get a copy and read it, because it’s again, as I said, it’s not only my experience as both chief of staff and Acting Attorney General in the Trump administration, also my experience as a US Attorney in the Bush administration, but it’s also a historically accurate account of what happened and really a solution for how we make sure this doesn’t happen again. So I would encourage everyone to go out to get this book. Follow me on social media @MattWhitaker46. And I just am so thankful to all those patriots out there that are willing to get in the arena and to make this country the ideal that we’re always working towards.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Matt, I really enjoyed the book. I’ll recommend it to our viewership as well here. Thanks a lot and wish you Godspeed.
Mr. Whitaker: Thank you.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.