A former White House lawyer said President Donald Trump had violated constitutional law by appointing a new acting attorney general.
Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general in the Obama administration, called Matthew Whitaker a Trump "lackey" who was not legally authorized to oversee the Department of Justice because he has not been confirmed in any capacity by the U.S. Senate.
"He could do immense damage," Katyal said. "He may have already done it, just in the last 24 hours. He can turn over (special counsel Robert) Mueller's files to Trump. He is the attorney general vested with all of the awesome powers that that office entails, including putting people to death and supervising all prosecutors in this country -- even the 94 who are Senate-confirmed and, yes, including supervising Robert Mueller. This is a constitutional crisis."
Katyal, who co-authored a New York Times op-ed blasting Whitaker's appointment with the husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, said public protests and congressional checks could potentially stop him from serving as attorney general.
"Trump is now facing a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats, and they have it fully within their power to say, we are not going to fund the Justice Department while this fake attorney general is at its helm," Katyal said. "We are going to fund parts of it. They have all sorts of things like that."
He said Senators could sue to have Whitaker removed, saying their constitutional authority had been usurped.
"It's very clear this guy could never pass a confirmation hearing," Katyal said.