IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) – Following Jeff Sessions resignation, President Donald Trump has tapped an Iowa native and a former Hawkeye on the gridiron.
President Trump announced, in a tweet earlier Wednesday morning, that Matt Whitaker would be the acting United States Attorney General.
Whitaker is a former Iowa district attorney. From 2004 and 2009, Whitaker was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa.
From 2014 until 2017, Whitaker was the Executive Director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a conservative watchdog organization.
Prior to the Sessions resignation, Whitaker was Sessions’ Chief of Staff.
He was also the starting tight end for the Iowa Hawkeyes during the 1991 Rose Bowl. He played for legendary Hawkeye Head Coach, Hayden Fry.
In 2014, Whitaker ran for the Iowa Republican Senate nomination in a race eventually won by Joni Ernst.
“As your U.S. Attorney, I protected Iowa putting thugs and predators behind bars,” Whitaker said in one of his old campaign commercials. In the same commercial, he also said how he would not “waver” to standing up to then-President Barack Obama.
A Matt Whitaker touchdown featured in the campaign commercial is one which former Iowa Assistant Coach, Don Patterson, remembers.
Patterson says, “It was a] fake field goal over at Illinois and a really big game a game. A game, that I believe if it didn’t clinch the Big Ten title for us, it came close it.”
Patterson said while Whitaker wasn’t the most talented on the Iowa team, his character made him a stand-out player.
“He always was the type of person who did everything exactly right. He really overachieved as a football player, he wasn’t a great player but he played at a high level,” he said.
According to Patterson, Whitaker was one of the team’s leader and known to keep other players in check. Patterson said they never had to worry about Whitaker and praised him by saying he was the “kind of person you’d hope to have as a son.”
Former Iowa running back and Waterloo native, Lew Montgomery, says he is excited for his old teammate, Matt Whitaker.
“Matt is probably one of the most fair and ethical guys I’ve ever been in contact with,” Montgomery said. “He is a superb individual and extremely talented in the work that he does.”
Montgomery said to see Whitaker assume such a high position speaks to his character.
“To see him represent our country and to represent it the way it needs to be, speaks volumes of his character,” he said.
In 1992, Whitaker’s senior season, he received Academic All American honors. In three years at the University of Iowa, he had finished his undergraduate degree and had started law school at Iowa.
Both Patterson and Montgomery described Whitaker as a bright student. They both also believe he will relish in his new position.
“I think he’s going to do really well. It’s just a very, very hard worker, a very, very honest and fair-minded person,” Patterson said.
Whitaker has been a critic of the ongoing Russia investigation being conducted by Robert Mueller.
That brought criticism from Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi, who called for Whitaker to recuse himself from involvement in the investigation.
“It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by @realDonaldTrump to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation,” Pelosi tweeted.
In a tweet, President Trump said a permanent replacement would be named at a later date.
The Federal Vacancies Reform Act allows Whitaker to serve 210 days without having to be sworn in by the Senate.