- The Washington Times - Monday, November 26, 2018

Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Monday requested the Senate Judiciary Committee hold a hearing on whether acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker violated a federal ban on campaign activity by government employees with his 2014 Senate campaign.

Mr. Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, asking for a hearing so Mr. Whitaker can testify under oath about potential Hatch Act violations.

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity, including accepting campaign contributions. Federal Election Committee filings show Mr. Whitaker’s 2014 Iowa U.S. Senate campaign is still active and received $8,800 in donations between Jan. 29 and Feb. 2.

That coincides with Mr. Whitaker collecting a taxpayer-funded salary while serving as chief of staff for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Mr. Blumenthal in his letter called the FEC filings “troubling revelations.”

“These payments at the very least call into question Mr. Whitaker’s impartiality as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States,” he wrote.

The Office of Special Counsel last week told CNN it was investigating whether Mr. Whitaker violated the Hatch Act. That announcement came after a watchdog group submitted a complaint to the OSC urging an investigation.

Mr. Blumenthal also said lawmakers must question the acting attorney general about his previous criticisms of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Since being elevated to acting attorney general, Mr. Whitaker has taken over the investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“Our committee performs a critical oversight role over the Department of Justice. We are entitled to know whether the man leading it has conflicts of interest that impact his ability to do his job as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States with impartiality,” Mr. Blumenthal wrote.

Democrats who have been critical of Mr. Whitaker’s appointment, have demanded he appear before the Judiciary Committee and answer their questions.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, also sent a letter to Mr. Grassley requesting a hearing with Mr. Whitaker.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, last week urged an investigation into conversations Mr. Whitaker may have had with President Trump about the Mueller probe, warning the discussions could impact the ongoing investigation.

Taylor Foy, a spokesman for the Senate Judiciary Committee, said no hearings are scheduled, and he had no further comment.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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