WTF Is Trump’s Former AG Matt Whitaker Doing in Kosovo’s Election?October 27, 2019
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s former acting attorney general seems to be celebrating his freedom from the searing spotlight of the Trump administration by involving himself in… Kosovo’s election.
Whitaker, perhaps more famous for his past role with a “scam” company that promoted time-travel tech and the hunt for Bigfoot than for anything he did during his short stint at the Department of Justice, hit the Kosovo campaign trail with gusto this week.
The short-lived AG stumped for a local Trump-supporting candidate Tuesday in an appearance that was quickly met with a statement from the U.S. embassy in Kosovo stressing Washington’s neutrality in the country’s Oct. 6 election.
With remarks that echoed the rhetoric Trump used in his now-infamous call with Ukraine’s president, Whitaker urged the tiny country to improve ties with the U.S. by electing his “friend,” conservative politician Kadri Veseli, to “fight corruption.”
“It is obvious to me that this election here in Kosovo is about, one, fighting corruption, and two, having an economic opportunity for every citizen of Kosovo,” Whitaker said, in a video of his appearance shared on Facebook by Veseli. “Both of these goals will be accomplished by having a prime minister that looks to the United States for friendship and support.”
Whitaker’s foray into Balkan politics comes as his former boss Trump and successor Attorney General William Barr face fresh scrutiny for their attempts to involve foreign countries in an investigation Trump hopes will undermine the Mueller report.
After leaving the Trump administration early this year, Whitaker was hired by political consultancy Axiom Strategies as managing director of its Clout Public Affairs division, although he didn’t plan to register as a lobbyist, according to a Bloomberg report.
Neither Axiom nor Clout responded to requests for comment about Whitaker’s appearance in Kosovo and whether it was related to his consulting work. The State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo similarly didn’t return requests for comment.
Whitaker was a hit with the crowd in Kosovo. He was hailed with cheers of “USA!” and “Donald Trump!” by a crowd of hundreds, in an appearance Veseli’s team edited down into a short clip with a wailing guitar soundtrack.
But Whitaker is hardly the model spokesman for the fight against corruption, in light of the many controversies he weathered during his brief tenure running Trump’s Justice Department.
Before he briefly became America’s top law enforcement official, Whitaker spent over a year on the advisory board of an “invention-promotion scam” firm that promoted outlandish products like “masculine toilets” for well-endowed men, time-travel technology, and the hunt for Bigfoot.
The company, World Patent Marketing, was shut down by a federal judge after it was accused by the Federal Trade Commission of running “a scam that has bilked thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars.”
Such career controversies, however, were dwarfed by his sudden and unexpected appointment to the nation’s top law enforcement official in November 2018. Democrats criticized the move as unconstitutional, and worried that Whitaker was being installed outside the normal line of DOJ succession by Trump on the basis of Whitaker’s regular criticism of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Despite those fears, Whitaker isn’t known to have taken steps to hem in the Mueller probe before being replaced by Barr in February.
More recently, Whitaker has defended Trump’s push for Ukraine to “look into” Democratic rival Joe Biden as nothing more than an attempt to “end corruption worldwide,” although Trump has yet to provide any proof that Biden was involved in untoward acts in Ukraine. There’s no sign Whitaker pushed Kosovo for any specific investigation, or for any insight about the Mueller probe.
Veseli, Kosovo’s parliamentary speaker and leader of the conservative Democratic Party of Kosovo, has painted himself as the biggest Trump mega-fan in the election, putting up a building-size poster of himself shaking hands with Trump. He has also styled himself as an anti-corruption campaigner, including before Trump’s Ukraine scandal erupted in September.
Whitaker’s host seemed to revel in the apparent endorsement from a close Trump ally, even posting photographs of their trip to Burger King together, a spot Veseli referred to as “a little piece of America.”
Veseli faces a raft of other candidates on Sunday, including Vjosa Osmani, who is running to become Kosovo’s first prime minister and has also taken a tough stance in the campaign against corruption.
Cover: Then-acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Rayburn Building titled “Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice,” where he was questioned about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation on Friday, February 8, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)