During his first public speech as acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker on Wednesday praised President Donald Trump's handling of the economy, telling an audience in Iowa that under this administration, seniors' retirement plans "are doing pretty good right now."
Trump last week fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installed Whitaker, Sessions' chief of staff, in his place. The controversial move has been challenged as unconstitutional and also raises questions about how Whitaker will oversee special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. DOJ issued a robust legal defense of the appointment Wednesday.
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Whitaker was speaking at a Justice Department rural and elder summit in Des Moines, Iowa, Wednesday morning.
"Many seniors in Iowa and across America spent their whole lives working, saving, and sacrificing so that they could enjoy a secure and peaceful retirement. And quite frankly, under President Trump their 401(k)s are doing pretty good right now," said Whitaker.
Whitaker continued lauding the President and the Justice Department, acknowledging that oftentimes local law enforcement in rural communities don't have the time or the resources to investigate fraud schemes that are often national or even international in scope.
"Fortunately, the Department of Justice has their backs of law enforcement," Whitaker said. "As President Donald Trump has said, this administration supports state and local, state and federal law enforcement 100%."
Whitaker said that his own mother in Ankeny, Iowa, was the target of a scam targeting seniors -- receiving calls that were allegedly from his oldest son asking for help to get out of jail.
"We all know these happen. And it's heartbreaking when your own mother calls you to ask if your son or daughter is really in jail and needs help," he said.
Whitaker served as US attorney for the Southern District of Iowa during the George W. Bush administration.
He also praised Sessions.
"I think we are making a difference and I think we are bending that curve and I am excited to continue the efforts that were started by General Sessions," he said, speaking about a reduction in overdose deaths at a roundtable with law enforcement. "I'm going to conclude with something a mentor of mine would say every time that he met with local law enforcement and that is: 'we have your back, and you have our thanks.'"