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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Matt Whitaker is a conservative judge with liberal views

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When President Trump on Thursday named Matthew Whitaker, the chief of staff of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Iowa, to be the acting attorney general, many of his critics pointed to Whitaker’s conservative views on race. On that count, he is no exception.

A 1996 Chicago Tribune story that appears on the law school website of William J. Brennan, Jr., summed up his beliefs:

“Judge Matthew J. Whitaker, a Republican who received his law degree from Yale Law School, is one of the most conservative judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a seat held by David Sentelle, another Republicans most liberal on federal judiciary issues, until he retired.”

That’s an interesting biography. And he likes to talk about those views when asked.

“I believe I am the most liberal conservative judge on the entire United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit,” he told the editorial board of The Washington Post in 2005.

He went on to argue that, because he was a Republican, his views deserved a lot of respect.

“I think you should think of people like me and the people who follow who stand on their own principles, not on what the political party that they represent thinks of them,” he said.

He has been an aggressive defender of Robert Bork, the Reagan administration’s failed Supreme Court nominee, whom Trump and many other Republicans objected to strongly in 1987 because of his views on race.

“I think he is a wonderful judge,” he told the editorial board of The Washington Post in 2005. “I think he should be confirmed.”

And he’s had an extremely permissive view of executive power. Most famously, he supported broad executive powers, when then-Attorney General John Ashcroft used his office to attack the “Redskins” team name on religious grounds.

“If Ashcroft thinks you can do something against a name that is offensive to a big population, it may be within the power of the government to do that,” he told a congressional committee in 2004.

Less famously, he has pushed to strike down the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain states to get federal approval before making changes to their election rules.

“You can’t have an A to Z review, because you don’t want to infringe the rights of the people in Alabama, Mississippi and some other states that have a lower standard of voting,” he told the editorial board of The Washington Post in 2005.

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