A scam artist is now acting as the nation's chief law enforcement officer.
After Trump fired Jeff Sessions as attorney general, he temporarily replaced him with Matthew Whitaker — a known critic of the Mueller investigation into Trump's ties to Russia whose appointment is likely illegal.
The whole thing is already a scam against democracy and the rule of law. And on top of all of this, Whitaker himself appears to be an actual scam artist.
Whitaker was on the board of directors of World Patent Marketing, a company that was forced to close and pay a $25 million settlement to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) because it was such an outrageous scam.
And according to new documents released by the FTC, Whitaker kept promoting the company even though he very likely knew it was a scam.
"Months after joining the advisory board of a Miami-based patent company in 2014, Matthew G. Whitaker began fielding angry complaints from customers that they were being defrauded, including from a client who showed up at his Iowa office to appeal to him personally for help," the Washington Post reported Friday.
These complaints were urgent and damning. Customers told Whitaker that the company's CEO, Scott Cooper, "is running an absolute scam," and threatened to file formal complaints against the company.
But all Whitaker did was forward a few of the emails to Cooper and leave it up to him on whether or how to respond. Whitaker never replied to the customers who reached out to him for help.
And in at least one case, he used his legal background to threaten a disgruntled former associate of Cooper's who threatened to report the company to the Better Business Bureau.
"I am a former United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa," Whitaker wrote in 2015. "Your emails and message from today seem to be an apparent attempt at possible blackmail or extortion."
This type of behavior was allegedly systemic in the company.
"A key takeaway from the FTC documents is that World Patent Marketing used Whitaker's background as a U.S. attorney to impress potential clients and bully perceived enemies," Bloomberg reported.
Shortly after Whitaker joined the firm's advisory board, Cooper also wrote an email to a brand-building company with the subject line, "Let's build a Wikipedia page and use Whitaker to make it credible."
"These new documents suggest that Mr. Whitaker was personally aware of allegations of fraud by World Patent Marketing and its CEO at the same time he was receiving payments as a member of the Advisory Board," Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, said Friday. "If true, this is extremely troubling and raises serious concerns about his fitness to serve as acting Attorney General and whether he was properly vetted for this critical position."
Whitaker also missed a deadline to comply with a subpoena from the FTC. When he did comply, the response was "lackluster," Sen. Bob Udall (D-NM) said Friday.
World Patent Marketing lured in customers with fake "success stories" and suppressed negative reviews. It promised to package and market anyone's patent or invention idea, no matter how unviable, for a fee. The FTC found that many of those customers ended up in debt or even lost their life savings, while Whitaker and other executives profited.
The alleged scam and Whitaker's alleged involvement in it was so bad, one FTC investigator wrote this incredulous email in late October 2017: "You're not going to believe this. Matt Whitaker is now chief of staff to the Attorney General. Of the United States."
And now, even more unbelievably, Whitaker has been promoted to acting attorney general. Of the United States.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.