President Trump crossed a “red line” by appointing Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, Bill Maher said during Friday night’s episode of the comedian’s weekly HBO program.
Mr. Maher repeatedly took aim at Mr. Whitaker’s appointment during the latest episode of “Real Time,” labeling it further evidence of a “slow-moving coup.”
“This guy, Matthew Whitaker, the new attorney general, boy, does he love him some Donald Trump,” Mr. Maher said during his opening monologue.
“Everything that Whitaker has said or written just amplifies Trump’s unhinged narratives. He wrote an op-ed which said the Mueller investigation goes too far; he wants to indict Hillary Clinton. He’s so far up Trump’s ass, Hannity had to scoot over.”
“To me, this Whitaker guy, that’s a red line,” Mr. Maher said later in the episode during an interview with journalist Bob Woodward. “When you start putting the top cop in the country as just a stooge, just the guy who’s there to do the bidding of the Supreme Leader, that’s the slow-moving coup.”
A former federal prosecutor, Mr. Whitaker, 49, was named acting attorney general Wednesday after Jeff Sessions resigned from the role at the president’s request, effectively placing him in charge of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the 2016 race and consequently raising fresh fears concerning its fate.
Mr. Mueller’s office is investigating matters related to the 2016 election, and his team of prosecutors has previously brought related charges against several members of Mr. Trump’s presidential election campaign, among others.
Mr. Sessions normally would have been in charge of the special counsel’s investigation on account of being attorney general, but he recused himself shortly after taking office because of his ties to Mr. Trump’s election campaign and appointed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to oversee the probe instead. His resignation made Mr. Whitaker the head of the Justice Department, however, in turn giving him oversight of Mr. Mueller’s probe and igniting new concerns involving the investigation’s future.
In an op-ed published by CNN last month, Mr. Whitaker wrote that Mr. Mueller’s probe was approaching the point of becoming “a mere witch hunt,” and that the special counsel was “dangerously close” to crossing a red line of his own, quickly prompting calls following his appointment Wednesday for his immediate recusal from the matter.
“I am committed to leading a fair Department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law and seeks justice for all Americans,” Mr. Whitaker said in a statement issued after his appointment this week.
Mr. Woodward, on his part, questioned whether the Trump administration was capable of doing the same.
“As we know, Trump really doesn’t care much about law,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist said during the HBO show Friday. “He’s going to do his own thing. He is his own person, and we have this presidency which is a projection of his personality.”
“That’s unfortunate, because he’s a malignant narcissist,” replied Mr. Maher.
Mr. Whitaker previously argued in an op-ed published by USA Today during the 2016 election that Mr. Trump’s opponent, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, should have been prosecuted for mishandling classified emails while secretary of state.
Mr. Trump initially cited the government’s handling of the Clinton email investigation as his reason for firing former FBI director James Comey in May 2017, but he later said his decision was caused by Mr. Comey investigating possible collusion between Russian and the president’s election campaign. Mr. Mueller was subsequently appointed to resume Mr. Comey’s probe, and he has reportedly broadened the investigation to examine whether the former FBI director’s firing constituted possible obstruction of justice.