US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions was fired today Wednesday after receiving unrelenting criticism from President Trump for recusing himself from an investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential race.
In a step that could have implications for the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump replaced Sessions with Matthew Whitaker, who will be acting attorney general. He had been Sessions’ chief of staff.
The top Democrat in the US Senate immediately called on Whitaker to recuse himself from the Mueller probe.
“Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
In an opinion piece for CNN that appeared on Aug 6, 2017, while he was a commentator for the network, Whitaker, a former US attorney, said Mueller would be crossing a line if he investigated the Trump family’s finances. The piece was titled: “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far.” Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Reuters on Tuesday that he assumed Sessions’ departure was “not going to affect” the Mueller investigation.
Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein, who is supervising the Russia investigation and has also faced criticism from Trump, was seen by Reuters entering the White House on Wednesday afternoon.
A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment on Sessions’ resignation and what it means for Mueller’s probe.
Trump announced Sessions’ departure on Twitter and thanked him for his service. Sessions said in a letter to Trump that he had resigned at the president’s request.
Sessions’ exit had been widely expected to come soon after Tuesday’s congressional elections, in which Republicans retained their majority in the Senate but lost control of the House of Representatives.
Never in modern history has a president attacked a Cabinet member as frequently and harshly in public as Trump did Sessions, 71, who had been one of the first members of Congress to back his presidential campaign in 2015.