On Wednesday, Donald Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign and named Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general. Whitaker was a bit of an out-of-right-field choice—he’d only taken the DOJ job a year ago, and before that hadn’t worked as a prosecutor since 2009—and reporters looking into his history quickly found that he’d caught Trump’s eye by vociferously defending the president and attacking Robert Mueller in TV appearances. Whitaker is also said to have made frequent visits to the Oval Office before being appointed, and word quickly leaked that Whitaker intended to take over supervision of the Mueller investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The press soon discovered some other things about Matthew Whitaker too, though—like that he is a friend of (and former campaign manager for) a political operative named Sam Clovis, who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign and is a key witness in Mueller’s probe. Whitaker was also found to have promoted and served on the advisory board of a Florida “patent services” company that was recently shut down by a judge after the Federal Trade Commission described it as a “scam” that had defrauded some customers of their life savings. Perhaps most critically, analysts subjecting Whitaker’s appointment to a type of scrutiny known as “reading what the Constitution and the other laws say” have noted that his appointment appears to be illegal on several levels.
Now, only two days after selecting him to be in charge of the Justice Department, Trump is saying he doesn’t know Matt Whitaker:
Matt Whitaker, I don’t know Matt Whitaker. Matt Whitaker worked for Jeff Sessions. [Ed: Important to note here that Trump hates Jeff Sessions.] And he was always extremely highly thought of, and he still is. But I didn’t know Matt Whitaker. He worked for Attorney General Sessions.
Whitaker? I barely even know her! Hardy har har, the executive branch is a goon circus of mean, dimwitted grifters, har har ha ha ha.
Update, Nov. 9, 2018, at 12:30 p.m.: ABC’s Justin Fishel notes that Trump called Whitaker “a great guy” and said the literal words “I know Matt Whitaker” on Fox News in October, an assertion that would seem to conflict with his Friday position about whether he knows Matt Whitaker—which, to remind you, was “I don’t know Matt Whitaker.”