Company formerly advised by Matt Whitaker being criminally investigated by FBI, accused of defrauding vets

The media is paying attention today to his paid-advisory role with World Patent Marketing, not because Whitaker himself is accused of wrongdoing but because the less legitimate he seems in his new role as AG the less likely he is to do something bold to scale back Russiagate. They’re already airing clips of his CNN commentary last year expressing skepticism about certain aspects of the investigation to support the case that he can’t be a fair broker on the subject. Whitaker reportedly first came to Trump’s attention for that reason, in fact — he was a consistent contrarian voice on cable in Trump’s favor on the subject of Mueller and his probe, a fact which allegedly escaped the attention of, uh, Trump’s own aides. “It was not widely known among White House staff that he’d commented repeatedly on the special counsel’s investigation in interviews and on television,” claimed CNN earlier today.

Which smells less like truth than ass-covering revisionist history, but okay.

Either way, the more hits he takes in the media on all fronts, from his role with World Patent to his views on judicial review to the constitutional cloud hanging over his appointment, the more eager the White House will be to usher him offstage by nominating a permanent successor. It’s goofy to absorb needless political damage over a guy who’s only supposed to be a short-term placeholder — if in fact he is supposed to be a placeholder. Maybe Trump was quietly thinking of putting him up as his official nominee after a few months on the job.

If he was, he’ll probably have to reconsider.

World Patent Marketing, based in Miami Beach, shut down last year after being accused by the Federal Trade Commission of scamming customers out of $26 million. The company charged would-be inventors thousands of dollars to patent and promote their inventions, but provided almost no real services and threatened those who complained, the FTC said…

Mr. Whitaker was paid a total of $9,375 to serve as an advisory-board member of the company, according to court documents, and appeared in at least two promotional videos the firm posted on its website. He also wrote a 2015 email on the company’s behalf to an unhappy customer, citing his background as a former U.S. Attorney and threatening the customer with “serious civil and criminal consequences,” the documents show…

The company promoted its advisory board, which included other prominent individuals besides Mr. Whitaker, to help convince customers of its bona fides, court documents show.

It worked if you believe this Guardian story, which runs down some of the gory examples of customers being bilked out of their life savings. Might as well read it now since, if Whitaker is still on the job in January, you’ll be seeing some of these people testify before Jerrold Nadler’s House Judiciary Committee:

Several veterans, two of them with disabilities, said they lost tens of thousands of dollars in the WPM scam, having been enticed into paying for patenting and licensing services by the impressive credentials of Whitaker and his fellow advisers. None said they dealt with Whitaker directly.

“World Patent Marketing has devastated me emotionally, mentally and financially,” Melvin Kiaaina, of Hawaii, told a federal court last year, adding that he trusted the firm with his life savings in part because it “had respected people on the board of directors”

Whitaker publicly vouched for WPM, claiming in a December 2014 statement it went “beyond making statements about doing business ‘ethically’ and translate[d] those words into action”.

He said: “I would only align myself with a first-class organisation.”

Lots more where that came from at the link. Here’s Whitaker in action promoting hot-tub technology for WPM:

“Why didn’t the White House know about any of this?” you ask. Eh, they probably did and Trump just didn’t care. He wanted a Russiagate skeptic in charge of the DOJ and he liked Whitaker’s performances on cable-news yakfests, absolutely the surest way to impress the president of the United States in 2018. “We’ve seen this over and over again with the Trump administration. They never vet these people,” said a former DOJ official to the Daily Beast. “It shows that they don’t really have a strategy when it comes to these things and then they end up having to backtrack.” Bear in mind, Trump has been looking for a replacement for Sessions practically from day one; his cardinal sin, recusing himself from the Russia probe, was committed at the beginning of March 2017, just weeks after Trump was sworn in. In 20 months of looking, somehow POTUS arrived at Whitaker as the guy at the head of the Department as Mueller approaches the finish line.

I think Trump will announce Christie soon as the nominee for the vacancy to take some heat off of Whitaker, with McConnell scheduling the confirmation hearing for early January. They probably can’t get Christie confirmed in the lame-duck; Rand Paul dislikes him for his stance on mass surveillance, leaving McConnell with no margin for error if Rand defects. Better to wait until they have 54 Republicans in the Senate. The criticism of Whitaker might actually make things easier for Christie in confirmation, with fencesitting Republicans willing to vote yes if only to hasten the replacement process.

Here’s Bill Kristol’s pro-Mueller outfit preparing the battlespace for the incoming Democratic House majority.

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