Matthew Whitaker, the Trump-appointed acting U.S. attorney general, filed financial disclosures revealing his income as a paid CNN consultant, adviser to a company that federal regulators shut down over fraudulent practices and as the leader of a conservative nonprofit group that repeatedly targeted Democratic lawmakers.
Whitaker was named this month the acting U.S. attorney general, replacing Jeff Sessions following his forced resignation. Whitaker’s appointment has raised criticism, as observers question whether he is lawfully allowed to lead the Department of Justice.
Several court challenges, including one filed Monday in Washington, challenge Whitaker’s appointment on constitutional grounds. Some critics also contend his partisanship—and repeated criticism of the special counsel’s Russia investigation, which he now leads—make him unfit to lead the Justice Department. Main Justice officials aver that Whitaker, a former Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney in Iowa, is lawfully the acting U.S. attorney general. Trump has not announced his plans to choose a permanent, Senate-confirmed attorney general.
The Justice Department on Tuesday released two financial disclosures for Whitaker: the first one he was required to file when he joined the Justice Department as chief of staff to Sessions last year, and the annual disclosure he was required to make in May. Transparency advocates had pressed the Justice Department in recent days to release Whitaker’s disclosures.
What follows are highlights from the disclosures:
>> Whitaker’s two disclosures each reported $15,000 in “consulting fees” for his commentary on CNN/Time Warner. Whitaker used the platform to criticize the special counsel investigation into Russian interference and call for limits on the probe’s scope. In August 2017, a month before being named as Sessions’s chief of staff, Whitaker said on CNN that Special Counsel Robert Mueller III would be crossing a “red line” if his team probed the finances of Trump and his family.
>> Whitaker reported receiving $1,875 in “legal fees” from World Patent Marketing, a company that was shut down by the Federal Trade Commission after being accused of scamming inventors out of millions of dollars. The FTC said World Patent Marketing, after being paid thousands of dollars to patent and market its customers’ inventions, failed to provide those services and used threats and gag clauses to suppress complaints. In 2014, when Whitaker extended his membership on World Patent Marketing’s advisory board, he said the company “goes beyond making statements about doing business ‘ethically’ and translate those words into action.” The earnings reported in his financial disclosure show that Whitaker remained linked to World Patent Marketing as the company came under FTC scrutiny.
>> From October 2014 until September 2017, when he joined the Justice Department, Whitaker worked as the executive director of Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a right-leaning nonprofit that called during his tenure for investigations into Democrats including U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Joaquin Castro. Whitaker’s reports showed he earned $904,000 (reported when he joined Main Justice) and $502,000 (reported this year) in income from the Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust.
>> Whitaker, formerly in private practice in Iowa, reported providing legal services to a handful of clients before joining the Justice Department. Those clients included Nebraska Beef, Mujo Becirovic of Des Moines, Iowa; Dan Sullivan of Dallas, Texas; and Mike Pieper of Keokuk, Iowa.
Whitaker’s new-entrant financial disclosure is posted in full below:
Whitaker’s annual financial disclosure from 2018 is posted here: