Josh_kovensky_profile2019

Josh Kovensky

Josh Kovensky is a reporter for Talking Points Memo in New York City. He previously worked for the Kyiv Post in Ukraine, covering politics, business, and corruption there. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago.

Articles by Josh

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker’s career trajectory took him from U.S. Attorney in Iowa to fourth-place finisher in that state’s Senate race to conservative activist in DC, from where he leapt to the DOJ. Along the way, he appears to have been involved in various shady business schemes, including one that was dissolved by the FTC. His is a startlingly quick rise for someone who lacks the experience and pedigree usually associated with the country’s top law enforcement officer.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to the Justice Department’s Inspector General on Tuesday asking for an investigation into Whitaker’s contacts with the White House, and, later the same day, the Justice Department released Whitaker’s financial disclosure statement.

Here are our questions for the acting attorney general, some of which may be answered if we end up getting that IG investigation:

  • How was Whitaker chosen to be Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff?
  • What led Trump to name him acting attorney general after Sessions’s departure?
  • What effect did Whitaker’s cable TV appearances in summer 2017, during which he argued for restricting or defunding the Mueller investigation, have on his selection?
  • Was there any outside political benefactor who championed Whitaker and sped up his rise, or who recommended that he be brought into government? If so, who was it?
  • What conversations, if any, did Whitaker have with Trump about the Mueller investigation? Was anything promised in terms of restricting the investigation or limiting the scope of any report from the special counsel’s office?
  • Did Whitaker act as a “White House spy” while working as Sessions’ chief of staff? Who in the White House was receiving information from Whitaker under this arrangement?
  • Whitaker changed his financial disclosures five times before they were made public. What did he have to change?
  • What was the extent of Whitaker’s involvement in World Patent Marketing, the company behind what the FTC described as a scam?
  • Was Whitaker aware that an FBI investigation had been opened into World Patent Marketing in summer 2017, when he began making media appearances criticizing Mueller?
  • Were the media appearances criticizing Mueller part of a campaign by Whitaker to convince the Trump Administration to hire him?
  • How did Whitaker first become involved in World Patent Marketing? Was he aware of the fraud allegations at the company while he was there?
  • Former clients and critics of World Patent Marketing have said that Whitaker threatened them, in part by using his status as a former U.S. Attorney. Is this accurate? Was Whitaker aware that the fraud allegations may have been legitimate?
  • While working as executive director of the Foundation for Civil Accountability and Trust (FACT), a right-wing watchdog, did Whitaker have any contact with major GOP donors? What influence did those donors wield over his activities at FACT?
  • Whitaker’s salary at FACT appears to have jumped from $402,000 in 2016 to $502,000 for January to October of 2017. Why did Whitaker receive such a large raise at the time?
  • Would Whitaker allow Trump to be subpoenaed?
  • Does Whitaker maintain his earlier view that the Mueller investigation should be defunded?
  • Will Whitaker recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller probe?

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The past few weeks have seen fervent speculation that GOP operative Roger Stone will be the next to be indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. These reports are fueled in part by a near-daily tempo of grand jury appearances and interview requests involving figures with whom Stone was in contact with during the 2016 campaign.

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Coffee boy and foreign policy enthusiast George Papadopoulos doesn’t want to go to jail just yet. He’s asking a federal judge to delay his 14-day prison sentence until a separate appeal challenging special counsel Robert Mueller’s authority is resolved.

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In the latest attempt by Maria Butina to kick up legal dust at prosecutors, the accused Russian agent on Thursday filed a rambling motion to throw out the charges against her, calling them “unconstitutional” and arguing that the statute used to prosecute her is over-broad.

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