Attorney General Jeff Sessions tendered his resignation Wednesday at the request of President Donald Trump, flaming Democrats’ concerns over the future of the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia.
Trump announced Sessions’ departure along with his immediate replacement on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
“We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker,” Trump wrote, “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.”
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….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
“We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service,” Trump added, “and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date.”
….We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
Under the law, Whitaker can serve up to 210 days while the president finds a permanent replacement for Sessions.
Whitaker, a long-time Republican operative, is a former U.S. district attorney in Des Moines, Iowa who mounted an unsuccessful Senate bid in 2014. He joined the United States Justice Department in September 2017, serving as Sessions’ chief of staff.
Whitaker’s ascension to Acting Attorney General is unusual. Typically, the deputy AG steps into that role. Under normal circumstances, Sessions’ successor would be his deputy, Rod Rosenstein.
Because Sessions 'resigned.' If Trump had fired Sessions directly, Rosenstein would be AG.
Because Sessions 'resigned' Trump can appoint anyone he likes until the Senate goes back in session.
see: The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998.
— ⓕ (@effdot) November 7, 2018
As of Wednesday afternoon, Rosenstein’s role overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation came to an abrupt end. Whitaker will be taking over.
“The Acting Attorney General is in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores.
Like Trump, Whitaker has decried Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt” and has inherited the authority to fire Rosenstein, whom Whitaker has urged “to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel.”
Sessions abdicated his power to fire Rosenstein when he recused himself from the Russia investigation last year.
“If [Mueller] were to continue to investigate the financial relationships without a broadened scope in his appointment, then this would raise serious concerns that the special counsel’s investigation was a mere witch hunt,” Whitaker wrote on CNN.com last August.
Speaking to Don Lemon last summer, Whitaker predicted that Trump would “try to get Rod to maybe even cut the budget of Bob Mueller.”
“I think what ultimately the president is going to start doing is putting pressure on Rod Rosenstein, who is in charge of this investigation,” Whitaker said, “and really try to get Rod to maybe even cut the budget of Bob Mueller and do something a little more stage crafty than the blunt instrument of firing the attorney general and trying to replace him.”
Whitaker has also said, as the president has as well, that Mueller digging into Trump’s finances would be “a red line” that Mueller is “dangerously close to crossing.”
“It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump’s finances or his family’s finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign,” he wrote in a CNN op-ed. “That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel.”
Thus, Whitaker’s appointment greatly imperils Mueller, and as such, the truth.
Democrats, having scored a tremendous victory winning control of the House in the midterms, are prepared to take on Trump.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who will likely reclaim the speakership in January, accused Trump of firing Sessions in order to meddle in the Mueller probe.
“It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by President Trump to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.”
House Minority Leader Pelosi: "It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by President Trump to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation."
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 7, 2018
California Congressman Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called upon Congress to protect Mueller, an issue which has garnered bipartisan support.
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) November 7, 2018
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said in a tweet that Sessions’ firing hastens a looming constitutional crisis. She joined Swalwell’s call for Congress to act.
.@realDonaldTrump’s firing of Jeff Sessions brings us one step closer to a constitutional crisis. Congress must act to ensure that Special Counsel Mueller can do his job without interference.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) November 7, 2018
Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY), poised to become the chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, demanded Trump explain why he asked Sessions to step down and that the president will be held accountable.
“Americans must have answers immediately as to the reasoning behind
@realDonaldTrump removing Jeff Sessions from @TheJusticeDept, Nadler vowed. “Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation? We will be holding people accountable.”
Americans must have answers immediately as to the reasoning behind @realDonaldTrump removing Jeff Sessions from @TheJusticeDept. Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation? We will be holding people accountable. https://t.co/weykMuiCxm
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) November 7, 2018
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) learned of Sessions’ departure while speaking to reporters about Democrats’ performance on Tuesday.
“Oh,” he said as he was handed a note, “protecting Mueller and his investigation is paramount.”
“It would create a constitutional crisis if this were a prelude to ending or greatly limiting the Mueller investigation,” Schumer added, “And I hope President Trump and those he listens to will refrain from that.”
Later, Schumer responded to Trump’s tweet: “Clearly, the President has something to hide.”
Clearly, the President has something to hide. https://t.co/m1sQV9oBwl
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 7, 2018
Schumer also called on Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russia investigation because of the conflicts of interest stemming from his past remarks.
BREAKING: Chuck Schumer just called on Matthew Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russia probe. Everyone in Congress should also demand he recuse immediately.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) November 7, 2018
Reactions from the public continued on social media.
As Politico’s Rachel Bade notes, Nadler will head the committee that oversees Trump’s potential impeachment.
AND SO IT BEGINS: Future House Judiciary Committee Chairman @RepJerryNadler suggesting he'll use his gavel to investigate Trump's decision to fire Sessions. This is the same panel that deals w/impeachment –> https://t.co/V64xnHXRO9
— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) November 7, 2018
Mueller is now subject to hard right winger Matt Whitaker (not yet confirmed). Whitaker will do any damn thing Trump tells him to do. And you can bet that whoever he names to replace Sessions permanently will also be Trump's lap dog. This was the plan if Dems took the House.
— CALL: 202-224-3121 (@sevenbowie) November 7, 2018
watch Judiciary or Oversight hire Mueller's staff as committee counsel.
— Edward Branley (@YatPundit) November 7, 2018
1. Trump has long said he's not happy with Sessions. 2. Sessions is not in charge of the "Russia" bullshit…he recused himself…so…why the hyperventilating over firing Sessions? Answer: because whatever Trump does is impeachable.
— Meowflower Meownald Trump🇺🇸🇨🇦 (@BarnesyBub) November 7, 2018
As expected with such bombshell news, Twitter exploded.