President Trump has asked Jeff Sessions to resign as Attorney General. The President made the announcement yesterday on Twitter.
“We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States. He will serve our Country well,” the President wrote.
“We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date,” he added.
It was originally announced that Jeff Sessions had resigned, a fact that was later clarified by Sessions. “At your request, I am submitting my resignation,” Sessions wrote in his letter to Mr. Trump. The letter was later made public.
“Since the day I was honored to be sworn in as Attorney General of the United States, I came
to work at the Department of Justice every day determined to do my duty and serve my country. I have done so to the best of my ability, working to support the fundamental legal processes that are the foundation of justice,” Sessions added.
“Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. President,” he said.
The relationship between Sessions and Trump had been strained for many months. Despite Sessions being one of then-candidate Trump’s earliest and highest profile supporters, the dynamic between the two men would become tense soon after Sessions was sworn in.
The former Alabama Republican Senator recused himself from the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election – a decision Mr. Trump never forgave.
“I put in an attorney general that never took control of the justice department. Jeff Sessions never took control of the justice department and it’s a sort of an incredible thing,” President Trump said during an interview in August, in what was at that time, the latest round of criticism leveled for the move.
“Even my enemies say that Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself, and then you wouldn’t have put him in. He took the job and then he said I’m going to recuse myself. I said: ‘What kind of a man is this?’”
Sessions fired back. “I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in. While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” he wrote in a statement that was not addressed to the President directly.
“’Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.’ Jeff, this is GREAT, what everyone wants, so look into all of the corruption on the ‘other side’ including deleted Emails, Comey lies & leaks, Mueller conflicts…Come on Jeff, you can do it, the country is waiting!” the President responded.
“So unfair Jeff, Double Standard,” he would add in a subsequent tweet.
The decision to fire Sessions cast doubt on the future of the Mueller investigation. Whitaker has no intention of recusing himself from the investigation, according to people close to him. As the acting Attorney General Whitaker is now leading the probe as it has been taken out of the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing the investigation until now.
That has drawn the ire of Democrats on Capitol Hill.
“Given his record of threats to undermine & weaken the Russia investigation, Matthew Whitaker should recuse himself from any involvement in Mueller’s investigation. Congress must take immediate action to protect the rule of law and integrity of the investigation,” Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted.
It seems unlikely however that those calls will be heeded.
Confirmation of a new Attorney General will likely be among the first orders of business for a newly sworn-in Senate next year. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Florida State Attorney General Pam Bondi are said to be among the candidates being considered for the job.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons