Trump casts Sessions aside
New attorney general likely to cause trouble for Mueller’s investigation of President
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.”