Trump pushes Ses­sions to re­sign, picks loy­al­ist as re­place­ment

Merced Sun-Star - - Front Page - BY PETER BAKER AND KATIE BENNER

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump forced out At­tor­ney General Jeff Ses­sions on Wed­nes­day and re­placed him with a loy­al­ist who will take charge of the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence, a de­fi­ant move just a day after a midterm elec­tion loss.

Ses­sions de­liv­ered his res­ig­na­tion let­ter to the White House at the re­quest of the pres­i­dent and Trump tapped Matthew Whi­taker, Ses­sions’ chief of staff, as act­ing at­tor­ney general. In that ca­pac­ity, Whi­taker as­sumes con­trol of the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, rais­ing ques­tions about the fu­ture of the in­quiry led by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller.

Whi­taker has pre­vi­ously ques­tioned the scope of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. In a col­umn for CNN last year, Whi­taker wrote that Mueller would be go­ing too far if he ex­am­ined the Trump fam­ily’s fi­nances.

“This would raise se­ri­ous con­cerns that the spe­cial coun­sel’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion was a mere witch hunt,” Whi­taker wrote, echo­ing the pres­i­dent’s de­ri­sive de­scrip­tion of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Mueller has sub­poe­naed the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion for doc­u­ments re­lated to Rus­sia.

Un­til now, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been over­seen by Rod Rosen­stein, the deputy at­tor­ney general, be­cause Ses­sions re­cused him­self, cit­ing his ac­tive role in Trump’s 2016 cam­paign. Be­cause Whi­taker has ex­pressed opin­ions about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Jus­tice De­part­ment ethics ad­vis­ers may be asked to weigh whether he should also re­cuse him­self. If that were to hap­pen, Rosen­stein would con­tinue to over­see the spe­cial coun­sel.

Whi­taker had no plans to make any im­me­di­ate pub­lic com­ments about Mueller, an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said.

The ouster of Ses­sions, 71, came just a day after midterm elec­tions that handed con­trol of the House to Democrats, deal­ing a ma­jor blow to Trump for the fi­nal two years of his term. Repub­li­cans pre­served their hold on the Se­nate and in­creased their ma­jor­ity slightly, mak­ing it like­lier that Trump will be able to con­firm a re­place­ment.

But House Democrats have made clear that they plan to use the sub­poena power that will come with their ma­jor­ity to re­open the lower cham­ber’s own in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Rus­sia mat­ter.

The ouster of Ses­sions ended a part­ner­ship that soured al­most from the start of the ad­min­is­tra­tion and de­gen­er­ated into one of the most ac­ri­mo­nious pub­lic stand­offs be­tween a com­man­der-in-chief and a se­nior Cabi­net mem­ber in mod­ern U.S. his­tory.

John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, called Ses­sions be­fore his post­elec­tion news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day to tell the at­tor­ney general that Trump wanted him to step down, the ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said. Trump, who did not speak with Ses­sions him­self, then ducked ques­tions about Ses­sions’ fate at the news con­fer­ence.

Ses­sions walked out Wed­nes­day evening to ap­plause from more than 150 em­ploy­ees who gath­ered in a court­yard at the Jus­tice De­part­ment.

As he left, Ses­sions ap­peared emo­tional and said, “Thank you.”

CHAR­LIE NEIBERGALL AP file

Then-Iowa Repub­li­can se­na­to­rial can­di­date Matt Whi­taker watches be­fore a de­bate in John­ston, Iowa, in 2014. Pres­i­dent Trump an­nounced in a tweet that he was nam­ing Whi­taker as act­ing at­tor­ney general.

JABIN BOTSFORD Wash­ing­ton Post

At­tor­ney General Jeff Ses­sions re­signed on Wed­nes­day at Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­quest.

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