Trump casts Ses­sions aside

New at­tor­ney general likely to cause trou­ble for Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Pres­i­dent

StarMetro Toronto - - BIG OPINIONS - Daniel Dale

WASH­ING­TON – U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has fired At­tor­ney General Jeff Ses­sions and re­placed him with a pub­lic critic of Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Trump cam­paign’s re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia, sig­nif­i­cantly in­creas­ing the chances that Mueller will be fired or oth­er­wise thwarted.

Trump forced Ses­sions’s res­ig­na­tion the day after the midterm con­gres­sional elec­tions in which Repub­li­cans lost con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. He named Matthew Whi­taker, a Repub­li­can lawyer who has called for Mueller to be or­dered to nar­row his work, as the act­ing at­tor­ney general.

Trump did not ex­plain him­self, but he had long fumed about Ses­sions’s de­ci­sion to re­cuse him­self from the Rus­sia mat­ter. Be­cause of the re­cusal, Mueller was be­ing su­per­vised by Deputy At­tor­ney General Rod Rosen­stein, who had ap­peared to give the spe­cial coun­sel free rein.

With Ses­sions out of the pic­ture, Mueller will likely now re­port to Whi­taker, a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor and Repub­li­can po­lit­i­cal can­di­date who had served as Ses­sions’s chief of staff.

Democrats were gen­er­ally op­posed to Ses­sions. But they re­sponded with alarm to Ses­sions’s ouster and to Whi­taker’s ap­point­ment, wor­ried Trump’s moves were the be­gin­ning of an ef­fort to use his of­fice to thwart or ter­mi­nate Mueller.

“It’s clear that AG Ses­sions res­ig­na­tion is the first step to­ward re­mov­ing the spe­cial coun­sel and bury­ing his find­ings be­fore Democrats take power next year. We can’t let that hap­pen,” Rep. Ted Deutch, the top Demo­crat on the House Ethics Com­mit­tee, said on Twit­ter.

A month be­fore he was hired as Ses­sions’s chief of staff last year, Whi­taker wrote an ar­ti­cle in which he ar­gued that Mueller was on the verge of go­ing too far, by delv­ing into Trump’s fi­nances, and that he should be or­dered by Rosen­stein to nar­row his work.

He also mused on tele­vi­sion about slash­ing Mueller’s bud­get to a level “so low that his in­ves­ti­ga­tion grinds to al­most a halt.”

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