Trump ousts Ses­sions, vows to fight Democrats if they launch probes

Business World - - Theworld -

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump forced out his at­tor­ney gen­eral on Wed­nes­day and threat­ened to fight back if Democrats use their new ma­jor­ity in the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to launch in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his ad­min­is­tra­tion and fi­nances.

Mr. Trump came out swing­ing a day af­ter his Repub­li­cans lost con­trol of the House, and fol­lowed through on re­peated threats to re­move At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions.

Mr. Ses­sions, a 71-year-old for­mer US sen­a­tor from Alabama, was an early and loyal sup­porter of Mr. Trump but drew his fury when he re­cused him­self from an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 White House cam­paign.

His de­par­ture was the first in what could be a string of high-pro­file ex­its as Mr. Trump re­shapes his team to gird for his own 2020 re-elec­tion ef­fort. The Repub­li­can pres­i­dent named Mr. Ses­sions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whi­taker, as act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral and said he would nom­i­nate some­one for the job soon.

Mr. Trump’s move prompted sharp crit­i­cism from Democrats, who said he was seek­ing to un­der­mine the Rus­sia probe.

Nancy Pelosi, the House Demo­cratic leader who could be the next speaker, said in a state­ment posted to Twit­ter that Mr. Ses­sions’ ouster was a “bla­tant at­tempt” to un­der­mine the Rus­sia probe.

She urged Mr. Whi­taker, who now over­sees Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller and has ar­gued Mr. Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion has gone too far, to re­cuse him­self from any in­volve­ment.

Dur­ing a com­bat­ive news con­fer­ence in which he tan­gled with re­porters, Mr. Trump trum­peted his role in Repub­li­can gains in Tues­day’s midterm con­gres­sional elec­tions, and warned of a “war­like pos­ture” in Wash­ing­ton if Democrats in­ves­ti­gated him.

Democrats will now head House com­mit­tees that can probe the pres­i­dent’s tax re­turns, which he has re­fused to turn over since he was a can­di­date, pos­si­ble busi­ness con­flicts of in­ter­est and any links be­tween his 2016 cam­paign and Rus­sia, a mat­ter be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by Mr. Mueller.

Mr. Trump said he could fire Mr. Mueller if he wanted but was hes­i­tant to take that step. “I could fire ev­ery­body right now, but I don’t want to stop it, be­cause po­lit­i­cally I don’t like stop­ping it,” he said.

Moscow de­nies med­dling.

Mr. Trump, call­ing the Mueller probe a witch hunt, has re­peat­edly said there was no col­lu­sion.

Mr. Trump was buoyed on Wed­nes­day by vic­to­ries that added to the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in the US Se­nate, telling re­porters at the White House that the gains out­weighed the Democrats’ takeover of the House.

The ex­panded Se­nate ma­jor­ity could make it eas­ier for Mr. Trump to con­firm a new at­tor­ney gen­eral, who will need a ma­jor­ity of votes in the 100-seat cham­ber.

‘WE CAN PLAY IT BET­TER’

Mr. Trump added that he was will­ing to work with Democrats on key pri­or­i­ties but felt any House in­ves­ti­ga­tions of his ad­min­is­tra­tion would hurt prospects for bi­par­ti­san­ship.

“They can play that game, but we can play it bet­ter,” Mr. Trump said.

“All you’re go­ing to do is end up in back and forth and back and forth, and two years is go­ing to go up and we won’t have done a thing.”

The di­vided power in Congress com­bined with Mr. Trump’s ex­pan­sive view of ex­ec­u­tive power could her­ald even deeper po­lit­i­cal po­lar­iza­tion and leg­isla­tive grid­lock in Wash­ing­ton.

There may be some room, how­ever, for Mr. Trump and Democrats to work to­gether on is­sues with bi­par­ti­san sup­port such as a pack­age to im­prove in­fra­struc­ture, pro­tec­tions against pre­scrip­tion drug price in­creases and the push to re­bal­ance trade with China.

“It re­ally could be a beau­ti­ful bi­par­ti­san sit­u­a­tion,” Mr. Trump said.

He said Ms. Pelosi had ex­pressed to him in a phone call a de­sire to work to­gether.

With Democrats mulling whether to stick with Ms. Pelosi, who was speaker when the party last con­trolled the House, or go in a new di­rec­tion, Mr. Trump wrote in a tweet ear­lier on Wed­nes­day that she de­served to be cho­sen for the po­si­tion.

Ms. Pelosi, at a Capi­tol Hill news con­fer­ence be­fore news of Mr. Ses­sions’ de­par­ture, said Democrats would be will­ing to work with Mr. Trump where pos­si­ble.

But she added: “We will have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to honor our over­sight re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and that’s the path we will go down. We again (will) try to unify our coun­try,” she said.

The Democrats fell short of a tidal wave of voter sup­port that would have won them con­trol of both cham­bers of Congress.

But in the 435-mem­ber House, the party was headed for a gain of about 30 seats, be­yond the 23 they needed to claim their first ma­jor­ity in eight years.

A Se­nate ma­jor­ity would have al­lowed Democrats to ap­ply even firmer brakes on Mr. Trump’s pol­icy agenda and given them the abil­ity to block any fu­ture Supreme Court nom­i­nees.

House Democrats could force Mr. Trump to scale back his leg­isla­tive am­bi­tions, pos­si­bly doom­ing his promises to fund a bor­der wall with Mex­ico and pass a sec­ond ma­jor tax-cut pack­age.

Leg­is­la­tors could also de­mand more trans­parency from Mr. Trump as he ne­go­ti­ates new trade deals with Ja­pan and the Euro­pean Union.

“To­day is more than about Democrats and Repub­li­cans; it’s about restor­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion’s checks and bal­ances to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Ms. Pelosi told sup­port­ers at a vic­tory party on Tues­day night. —

REUTERS

A WHITE HOUSE STAFF MEM­BER reaches for the mi­cro­phone held by CNN’s Jim Acosta as he ques­tions US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dur­ing a news con­fer­ence fol­low­ing Tues­day’s midterm US con­gres­sional elec­tions at the White House in Wash­ing­ton, DC in this Nov. 7 photo.

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