Jeff Sessions out as attorney general

President Donald Trump on Wednesday fired ...

Posted: Nov 8, 2018 8:49 AM
Updated: Nov 8, 2018 8:49 AM

President Donald Trump on Wednesday fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"At your request I am submitting my resignation," Sessions wrote in a letter to White House chief of staff John Kelly.

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READ: Jeff Sessions' resignation letter

Matthew Whitaker will take over as acting attorney general, the President said.

Whitaker is expected to take charge of the Russia investigation and special counsel Robert Mueller from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Whitaker has been openly critical of Mueller and the investigation and Democrats immediately called on him to recuse himself, just as Sessions had.

RELATED: Trump's replacement for Sessions once argued the Mueller probe goes too far

"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 ...We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date," Trump tweeted.

The move is an abrupt end to what had been a tumultuous tenure for Sessions, originally one of Trump's earliest and most loyal surrogates as an Alabama Republican senator. He was a key figure in implementing Trump's vision for America and significantly rolled back Obama-era policies on immigration, police reform and civil rights.

Sessions was an enforcer of much of the Trump administration's hardline approach on immigration and regularly praised the President's tough words on crime. But even as he continued to carry out the Trump agenda, his relationship with the President remained strained and fraught for months due to the ongoing Mueller investigation.

Sessions received the request to resign from Kelly, not the President, on Wednesday morning, an administration official said. It is not clear whether Mueller was told ahead of time.

Sessions believed that Rosenstein has handled the investigation properly after it was dropped "right in his lap," according to a source familiar with Sessions' thinking.

"[Rosenstein is] a professional, he's tried to do the right thing and he's handled it as well as anybody could," the source said of Sessions' views on the matter.

However, the source said that Sessions himself has been frustrated that Mueller's investigation has not yet concluded, but DOJ officials have "tried to do the right thing every day and not be involved in arguing the case in the media."

In a statement, Whitaker said he will lead a "fair" department with high ethical standards.

"It is a true honor that the President has confidence in my ability to lead the Department of Justice as Acting Attorney General. I am committed to leading a fair Department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law, and seeks justice for all Americans," he said.

Trump constantly criticized Sessions

Sessions' ouster came a day after the midterm elections saw Republicans hold onto control of the Senate -- which would confirm Trump's eventual permanent choice to head the Justice Department -- and just weeks after Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud and Trump's former campaign chair Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight charges including tax fraud and bank fraud.

RELATED: Trump must reckon with new realities in wake of the election

Sessions was aware that Cohen was facing bank fraud and tax violations but had been walled off from the campaign finance aspects of the investigation into Trump's former lawyer, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told CNN.

Trump's distaste for Sessions was well known -- and publicly reinforced by the President himself on a regular basis -- after the attorney general recused himself from all matters related to the 2016 campaign early in Trump's term.

RELATED: Trump calls Attorney General Jeff Sessions 'scared stiff and Missing in Action'

The President mocked Sessions in August as "scared stiff and Missing in Action." Later the same month as Trump continued to rail against him, Sessions issued a statement firing back at Trump and declaring, "While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action."

RELATED: Sessions hits back at Trump: DOJ won't be 'improperly influenced'

Just days later, Trump knocked the Sessions-led Justice Department for indicting two Trump-supporting Republican congressmen ahead of the midterm elections. Both lawmakers won their re-election bids Tuesday.

But Sessions hung on, and although there was no formal reconciliation, the President allowed him to stay, even despite the unwillingness of White House spokespeople to publicly confirm, for days, that Trump had confidence in the attorney general.

In early August, Trump tweeted that Sessions "should stop" Mueller's investigation, raising questions as to whether the President was attempting to obstruct justice. Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani told CNN's Dana Bash that Trump was merely "expressing his opinion on his favorite medium."

Sessions, for his part, consistently maintained that his recusal decision was made in consultation with career ethics officials at the Justice Department and was in the works from the time he was sworn in.

Democrats demand continued independence for Mueller

Top Democrats immediately called for Mueller's investigation to be allowed to proceed.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on the new acting attorney general to recuse himself from oversight of 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," Schumer said.

RELATED: Democrats to use House majority to launch Trump investigations

Former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder declared interference with the special counsel "a red line."

"Anyone who attempts to interfere with or obstruct the Mueller inquiry must be held accountable. This is a red line. We are a nation of laws and norms not subject to the self interested actions of one man," Holder tweeted.

New York Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler tweeted a vow for accountability. Nadler is poised to chair the House Judiciary Committee next year.

"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," Nadler tweeted.

Immigration bonded him with Trump from the start

Sessions' campaign loyalty to Trump earned him a plumb spot in the administration as attorney general, and Sessions' former aides and allies, including prominent Trump adviser Stephen Miller, spread throughout the administration in key posts across multiple agencies.

Under Sessions, the Justice Department has been aggressive in trying to cut off funds to and punish sanctuary cities -- though the courts have repeatedly admonished many of those efforts -- and was the primary agency that justified the ending of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, a program that protected young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children.

Sessions moved to push the limits of his authority over the nation's immigration system and reinterpreted asylum law as he clashed with immigration judges. He has been the voice of many of the administration's most aggressive immigration priorities, and was a staunch defender of the administration's policies last summer that led to the separation of immigrant families and led to widespread outcry.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 91935

Reported Deaths: 2780
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6903153
DeSoto532153
Harrison368771
Jackson334367
Madison318086
Rankin313473
Lee254066
Jones236078
Forrest231069
Washington215671
Lafayette203039
Lauderdale1984123
Bolivar177465
Oktibbeha173749
Lamar156633
Neshoba1524103
Panola140926
Sunflower138543
Lowndes138457
Warren136650
Leflore134380
Pontotoc120416
Pike120148
Monroe117665
Scott115925
Copiah115433
Coahoma110927
Holmes108458
Marshall106714
Grenada104535
Lincoln104453
Yazoo103429
Simpson100142
Union96524
Tate94537
Leake93535
Adams89135
Wayne87121
Pearl River84850
Marion83633
Covington79321
Prentiss78617
Alcorn75310
Newton74722
Itawamba74121
George73913
Tallahatchie73418
Winston71919
Tishomingo65035
Attala63625
Chickasaw63524
Tippah63516
Walthall58925
Clay56216
Hancock55420
Noxubee54015
Jasper53615
Clarke52538
Smith51714
Calhoun50612
Tunica47213
Montgomery45020
Claiborne44916
Lawrence42212
Yalobusha41314
Perry39016
Humphreys36915
Quitman3625
Stone34611
Greene33516
Webster32813
Jefferson Davis32211
Carroll30812
Amite30710
Wilkinson30117
Kemper28515
Sharkey25812
Jefferson2359
Benton2151
Franklin1863
Choctaw1775
Issaquena1033
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 128818

Reported Deaths: 2284
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson18648332
Mobile12949288
Montgomery8560170
Madison736573
Tuscaloosa7015112
Lee558259
Shelby550149
Baldwin502148
Marshall376342
Etowah326344
Calhoun321139
Morgan312925
Houston260621
Elmore247547
DeKalb230119
St. Clair218134
Walker217780
Talladega199925
Limestone191919
Cullman180017
Franklin172728
Dallas172526
Russell16912
Autauga162424
Lauderdale159231
Colbert157224
Escambia154324
Blount150413
Jackson146610
Chilton143325
Dale128042
Covington127027
Coffee12388
Pike11329
Tallapoosa112483
Chambers110642
Clarke104417
Marion91428
Butler90238
Barbour8097
Marengo69319
Winston68512
Lowndes64327
Pickens62214
Bibb6179
Hale60828
Bullock58514
Randolph58512
Lawrence57620
Monroe5708
Washington54513
Geneva5404
Perry5356
Wilcox52911
Cherokee52816
Clay5187
Conecuh51611
Crenshaw51531
Macon46619
Henry4524
Sumter41719
Fayette4128
Choctaw34212
Lamar3302
Cleburne3116
Greene29915
Coosa1573
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