President Donald Trump’s hand-picked choice to lead the Justice Department once lobbied against a bill requiring state and local contractors in Iowa to use U.S.-manufactured steel.
In 2013, Matthew G. Whitaker, now serving as the acting attorney general, was hired by Tyco to oppose legislation that would prohibit contractors on public projects from using foreign steel, iron and other building materials, according to Iowa records.
Whitaker’s lobbying — which contradicts Trump’s stated desire to bolster the American steel industry — has not been previously reported.
Since Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions in November and controversially installed Whitaker as his replacement, Whitaker’s past — from his many references to his college football career in an application to be a judge to his involvement in a company that the government accused of being a scam that bilked its clients out of millions of dollars — has come under intense scrutiny.
After leaving his job as the U.S. attorney in Iowa in 2009, Whitaker set up a consulting shop and lobbied state lawmakers for casinos and satellite TV services.
According to a filing with the Iowa Legislature, Whitaker opposed the the “Iowa Buy American Act” on behalf of Tyco, a security-system manufacturer that merged with Johnson Controls in 2016.
The bill, which ultimately didn’t pass, included exceptions that would allow builders to use foreign materials, including if prices in the U.S. were at least 5 percent more than in another country.
Trump has promised on the campaign trail to bring back steel jobs, falsely stating in July that U.S. Steel was opening six new plants when in reality it was reopening two shuttered ones.
But in business, Trump — like Whitaker — apparently didn’t believe companies should be buying domestic steel.
Trump has used steel from China, Turkey and Germany in his building projects across the country and defended the practice during the 2016 campaign.
In 2010, Trump said he was forced to buy windows made in China because they were cheaper.
“I ordered windows, thousands of windows the other day — they’re made in China,” Trump told CNBC at the time. “I don’t want to buy them, but it’s hard to get them anywhere else.”