Jeff Sessions has been forced out as Attorney General. The resignation letter submitted to President Trump on November 7 revealed that he was resigning at the president’s request.
Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker from Iowa, will serve as the acting Attorney General until a new one is chosen. It is also possible that President Trump could nominate Whitaker to remain in the position. A permanent AG would need to be confirmed by the Senate. You can read more about Whitaker’s background here.
Democrats Expressed Concern for the Future of the Investigation Run by Special Counselor Robert Mueller
Democrats reacted more immediately to the news. Many of them expressed concern about the future of the Russia investigation, because Whitaker has previously written that he felt Robert Mueller’s probe was going “too far.” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has been overseeing the investigation, but that job now falls to Whitaker.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s immediate reaction on Twitter was, “Clearly, the President has something to hide.”
Senator Schumer then advocated for Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing 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.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi echoed Schumer’s sentiment, writing on Twitter, “It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by @realDonaldTrump to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. 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. #FollowTheFacts”
Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia also expressed concern for the Robert Mueller investigation. His statement reads: “While the President may have the authority to replace the Attorney General, this must not be the first step in an attempt to impede, obstruct or end the Mueller investigation. No one is above the law and any effort to interfere with the Special Counsel’s investigation would be a gross abuse of power by the President. Senators from both parties have repeatedly affirmed their support for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Every one of them should speak out now and deliver a clear message to the President that the Special Counsel’s investigation must continue without interference.”
In a tweet, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff accused President Trump of trying to replace Jeff Sessions with someone who would be more concerned with protecting his personal interests rather than the country’s. “President Trump just removed Jeff Sessions. He wants an Attorney General to serve his interest, not the public. Mueller’s investigation and the independence of the DOJ must be protected. Whitaker and any nominee must commit to doing both. We will protect the rule of law.”
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut was repetitive in his reaction. “Jeff Sessions did not resign. He was fired. Jeff Sessions did not resign. He was fired. Jeff Sessions did not resign. He was fired. Say it with me.”
Senator Kamala Harris of California also called on Matthew Whitaker to step aside from overseeing the Mueller probe. “Matthew Whitaker, the acting Attorney General, clearly wants to limit the Mueller investigation. He must recuse himself and legislation should be brought to the Senate floor to ensure Mueller’s investigation is protected.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren: “.@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.”
Republican Lawmakers Thanked Sessions for His Service; Senator Graham Shared That He ‘Looked Forward to Working With President Trump to Find a Confirmable, Worthy Successor’
Republican lawmakers struck much more accepting tones in their public statements. The overall theme was to praise and thank Jeff Sessions for his service, and focusing on moving forward. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement, “I wish him well and look forward to working with him in any future endeavors.”
Republican Lindsey Graham has been one of Sessions’ strongest defenders. He has previously stated publicly that he did not want Sessions to quit, and seemed to mock the president over the issue. He told Politico in 2017, If the president wants to fire him, fire him. I think anybody who’s strong would use the power they have and be confident in his decision.”
But today, Senator Graham struck a much more conciliatory tone at the news that Sessions had been asked to resign.
He wrote, “Jeff Sessions served our nation well and honorably as Attorney General. He has dedicated his whole life to conservatism and upholding the Rule of Law. I look forward to working with President @realDonaldTrump to find a confirmable, worthy successor so that we can start a new chapter at the Department of Justice and deal with both the opportunities and challenges our nation faces. As to me, I will be part of a larger Republican majority in the United States Senate — working with the President and my Republican and Democratic colleagues — to make America safer and more prosperous.”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley praised Jeff Sessions for his service as both a former member of the Senate and as the leader of the Justice Department. “Thx to AG Jeff Sessions for his service to our country both leading the DOJ & in the US Senate serving the ppl of Alabama I‘ve enjoyed working with him for decades. He is a true public servant + I appreciate his friendship.”
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio shared this statement: “Jeff Sessions is a friend, a former colleague, and an honorable public servant. He is a man of deep conviction and principle who has always stood up for the rule of law. As a senator and as attorney general, Jeff has always had the best interests of our country at heart. While I’m disappointed he will no longer serve in this role, I want to thank him for his faithful service to our country.”
Retiring Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona called on Majority Leader McConnell to bring a bill to the floor that would protect the Special Counsel. “Earlier this year, we passed S.2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would safeguard Robert Mueller’s investigation. Leader McConnell should bring the bill to the Senate floor as soon as possible.”