Justice Department officials are furious after President Donald Trump’s acting Attorney General violated the department’s shutdown guidelines.
According to ABC News, Matthew Whitaker gave a political speech at the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday, which flies in the face of his own rules.
“I think it’s deeply hypocritical,” ABC quoted an anonymous federal prosecutor.
U.S. prosecutors around the country got a message saying that anyone deemed “excepted” was required to work during the shutdown and that they wouldn’t be getting a paycheck. They were only allowed to perform work on things that are related to threats against life or property. Anything like “ancillary functions” such as “public affairs activities and community outreach … may be conducted only to the extent the failure to perform those functions prevents or significantly damages” department operations, the memo read.
Last week, top DOJ officials sent an email to all of the offices in the U.S. explaining “what employees deemed excepted and working in the office may do.”
“We have been directed to continue only activities that relate to ’emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property,’ i.e., where there is a reasonable likelihood that the safety of human life or the protection of property would be compromised to some significant degree by delay in the performance of the function in question,” said the email. “The risk should be real, not hypothetical or speculative.”
Whitaker’s speech dealt with the 25th anniversary of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that some claim helped “protect” worshipers’ rights.
Whitaker’s speech praised Trump as a president “who is standing up for the First Amendment.” “Others,” he said, have “tried to stand in the way.” Ironically, the First Amendment gives freedom of the press as well as religion.
“For example,” Whitaker told the crowd, “we’ve seen nuns ordered to pay for contraceptives,” and a senator, he said, tried to block “an evangelical Christian” from joining the Trump administration.