Trump shows Ses­sions the door

Daily Dispatch - - World News - – AFP

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wed­nes­day fired at­tor­ney gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions a day af­ter a heated midterm vote, nam­ing a loy­al­ist to re­place him in a move that raises ques­tions over the fu­ture of the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The ax­ing capped more than a year of bit­ter crit­i­cism by Trump over his le­gal ad­viser’s de­ci­sion to re­cuse him­self from the probe into Moscow’s in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion, paving the way for the ap­point­ment of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller.

In an­nounc­ing the res­ig­na­tion in a tweet that thanked the for­mer Alabama sen­a­tor “for his ser­vice” – Trump right away named as act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral Ses­sions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whi­taker.

The an­nounce­ment set off im­me­di­ate alarm bells: Whi­taker has been overtly crit­i­cal of the broad scope granted to Mueller’s team to probe be­yond al­le­ga­tions that Trump’s cam­paign col­luded with Rus­sia in 2016, into other ties be­tween Trump, his fam­ily and aides, and Rus­sia – an in­ves­ti­ga­tion the pres­i­dent calls a “witch­hunt”.

In an op-ed in Au­gust last year he pub­licly urged deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein – who over­sees the probe – to “limit the scope of his in­ves­ti­ga­tion to the four cor­ners of the or­der ap­point­ing him spe­cial coun­sel”.

As act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral, Whi­taker now has the power to wrest over­sight away from Rosen­stein and take charge him­self. Demo­cratic se­nate mi­nor­ity leader Chuck Schumer im­me­di­ately called on Whi­taker to re­cuse him­self from the probe as his pre­de­ces­sor had, “given his pre­vi­ous com­ments ad­vo­cat­ing de­fund­ing and im­pos­ing lim­i­ta­tions” on it.

Sen­a­tor Bernie San­ders, a for­mer pres­i­den­tial hope­ful, went fur­ther, tweet­ing that “any at­tempt by the pres­i­dent or the jus­tice depart­ment to in­ter­fere with Mueller’s probe would be an ob­struc­tion of jus­tice and im­peach­able of­fence”.

They were joined in their de­mands by Repub­li­can Mitt Rom­ney, a for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and fre­quent Trump critic who won a US Se­nate seat in Tues­day’s midterm.

Ses­sions was the first ca­su­alty of a cabi­net shakeup that had been ex­pected from Trump fol­low­ing the midterm elec­tions where his Repub­li­can party lost con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives but re­tained the Se­nate. But his de­par­ture was an­tic­i­pated since early this year, af­ter he en­dured with­er­ing and re­peated crit­i­cism from the pres­i­dent over the legally trou­bled ban on Mus­lim trav­ellers Trump sought when he came into of­fice, and over the Mueller probe.

“At your re­quest, I am sub­mit­ting my res­ig­na­tion,” Ses­sions said in the first line of a let­ter ad­dressed to Trump.

Ses­sions was the first US sen­a­tor to back Trump’s pres­i­den­tial run in 2016.

The two were re­port­edly brought to­gether by a shared wish to crack down on im­mi­gra­tion.

But Trump was in­fu­ri­ated when in March 2017 Ses­sions re­cused him­self from the nascent Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, be­cause of his own Rus­sian con­tacts dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign.

JEFF SES­SIONS

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