Justice legal opinion backs Whitaker’s naming as acting AG

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has issued an internal legal opinion supporting the legality of Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general.

The Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion is aimed at addressing concerns from Democrats and even some Republicans that President Donald Trump violated the law by naming Whitaker over Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Whitaker had been chief of staff to now-ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions — a job that didn’t require Senate confirmation.

The state of Maryland has challenged Whitaker’s appointment.

A Justice Department official says the White House contacted the Office of Legal Counsel for advice — before Sessions was replaced — about options in the event of a vacancy.

The opinion doesn’t address the question of whether Whitaker should step aside from overseeing the special counsel’s Russia investigation.