Former US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker asserted that Russia is “trying to interfere” in the 2020 US Election, speaking at the Oxford Union on February 21st.
The Oxford Union hosted Whitaker for an evening speaking event open to Union members and guests. Whitaker reaffirmed his support for President Donald Trump, stating that Trump “is tireless, he does not grow weary and what you see is what you get.”
He stated that Kremlin efforts to involve itself in US elections go back to the Reagan era, and continued throughout the 2016 and 2018 elections.
Whitaker cautioned that “we have to be on guard,” but reiterated his confidence in the Department of Justice, specifically commenting that the FBI has “a unique view as to how to interrupt [Russia’s] effort,” including “counterespionage, counterintelligence, all of the kind of things that you do when other countries are trying to interfere in your domestic elections.”
This comes in the wake of Shelby Pierson, the US intelligence community’s top election security official, delivering a briefing to lawmakers last week warning that Russia is believed to be already taking steps to interfere in the 2020 election with the explicit goal of a second term for President Trump. The briefing paints a comprehensive picture of Russia’s various efforts, with projects ranging from hacking and weaponizing social media to attacks on election infrastructure, according to CNN.
Whitaker additionally weighed in on the Ukraine scandal in the Q&A session, claiming that the President’s attempts to obtain dirt on former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son is “not an impeachable offense” and does not lead to “a safe harbour” for presidential powers.
Affiliated with the Republic Party, Whitaker was Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa before being appointed as Department of Justice Chief of Staff in 2017, thereby formally entering the Trump administration. After former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation on November 7th, 2018, Whitaker was appointed to serve as Acting Attorney General, and remained in this role until February 14th, 2019, when current Attorney General William Barr was sworn into office.
The temporary nature and lack of Senate confirmation in Whitaker’s appointment caused controversy among legal scholars, and at least 9 unsuccessful legal challenges were launched against his appointment. While in office as Acting Attorney, General Whitaker directly supervised Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation, as well as announcing charges against Chinese technology giant Huawei.
He has since returned to private practice, appearing regularly on conservative news and analysis programs and working as Outside General Counsel for antivirus firm PC Matic.
The Oxford Union has declined to comment on Whitaker’s remarks.