Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker sticks to script while back in Iowa

    Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker addresses a legal conference about financial fraud targeting the elderly Wednesday. (Photo: Caroline Cummings)

    Acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker returned to Iowa Wednesday morning, amid heightened national scrutiny over his appointment to the post last week.

    "It's good to be home," Whitaker said. "This is where I played football, where I practiced law, where I prosecuted criminals as a United States Attorney, and it’s where I’m raising my family."

    Whitaker, an Iowa native, spoke in Des Moines Wednesday morning at the Rural and Tribal Elder Justice Summit, a legal conference focusing on financial crimes against senior citizens and those in rural and tribal communities.

    His appearance comes on the heels of his new appointment to lead to Department of Justice, after Jeff Sessions resigned last week at the president's request. Since his appointment, Whitaker, who served as Sessions' chief of staff before his resignation, has come under fire for controversies surrounding previous business dealings and critical comments he's made about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

    "Iowa shaped my values," Whitaker said. "One of those Iowa values is that we respect our elders. We recognize the debt that we owe to our parents and grandparents."

    Whitaker emphasized that the Department of Justice is putting its full weight behind efforts to combating these crimes, vowing to commit resources and training to local and state partners. He commended the department's on the issue while adhering to his prepared remarks.

    "Our goal is to reduce crime and protect America’s seniors,," he said. "And we have good reasons to believe that our work with our law enforcement partners is reducing crime and having a real impact on the seniors of this country."

    He detailed various new initiatives like $18 million from the Office of Victims of Crime to help seniors who've fallen victim to fraudulent schemes. The funds can be used for priorities like legal services, telephone hotlines, and housing for seniors who have lost their homes, he said.

    "Through so-called grandparent scams, fake prizes or even outright extortion, criminals target our seniors to rob them of their hard-earned savings and their peace of mind," Whitaker said to a crowd in downtown Des Moines.

    His finished his remarks in under 20 minutes before dashing off to another event at the U.S. Attorney's office to discuss violent crime and the opioid crisis. He did not take any questions from reporters.

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