By Jonathan Lemire and Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press
(AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushed out Wednesday as the country’s chief law enforcement officer after enduring more than a year of blistering and personal attacks from President Donald Trump over his recusal from the Russia investigation.
Trump announced in a tweet that he was naming Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney from Iowa, as acting attorney general. Whitaker has criticized special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between the president’s Republican campaign and Russia.
Sessions, in a one-page letter to Trump, said he was resigning “at your request.” The resignation was the culmination of a toxic relationship that frayed just weeks into Sessions’ tumultuous tenure, when he stepped aside from the Mueller investigation.
Trump blamed the decision to recuse for the appointment of Mueller, who took over the Russia investigation and began examining whether Trump’s hectoring of Sessions was part of a broader effort to stymie the probe.
Trump had repeatedly been talked out of firing Sessions until after the midterms but told confidants in recent weeks that he wanted Sessions out as soon as possible after the elections, according to a Republican close to the White House who was not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.
White House chief of staff John Kelly called Sessions before the president’s news conference on Wednesday and asked for his resignation. Sessions’ undated resignation letter was then sent to the White House.
Whitaker once opined about a scenario in which Trump could fire Sessions and then appoint an acting attorney general who could stifle the funding of Mueller’s probe. In that scenario, Mueller’s budget could be reduced “so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt,” Whitaker said during a July 2017 interview with CNN.
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty