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Here's how Justice Dept lawyers argue Whitaker's appointment is lawful

Acting AG Whitaker meeting with ethics officials
Acting AG Whitaker meeting with ethics offici... 03:45

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel on Wednesday released the legal advice it gave the White House as to whether a senior Justice Department official like Matt Whitaker could be appointed acting attorney general, CBS News' Paula Reid reports. 

In short, the Justice Department's lawyers, in the memo dated Wednesday, argued an appointment Whitaker's is lawful. 

A senior Justice Department official who worked on the memo and spoke to reporters on a conference call Wednesday morning confirmed the Justice Department gave the White House verbal advice, then codified that advice in a memo. 

Maryland's attorney general has already filed a lawsuit arguing Whitaker's appointment is illegal and unconstitutional. Critics of the Trump administration say that Sessions cannot be replaced, even temporarily, by someone who is not Senate-confirmed. 

A senior official on the conference called Wednesday refused to answer questions about when the White House sought advice from the Justice Department. 

Read the Justice Department memo here:

The Justice Department says the last time a senior official was appointed acting attorney general without Senate confirmation was 1886 — before the Justice Department even existed. Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel, who wrote the memo for the Justice Department, argued that an acting attorney general is not a principal officer because he is only in the job temporarily. Whitaker can serve in a temporary position for 210 days. 

— CBS News' Kathryn Watson contributed to this report

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