Less than one day after the United States’ midterm elections wherein the Democratic Party took control over Congress, President Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In a tweet, the President announced that Sessions’ Chief of Staff would take his place in the interim. “We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States. He will serve our Country well….”
Whitaker will now oversee the investigation of interference from Russia in the 2016 presidential elections as well as possible collusion with the campaign of President Trump, a controversial probe headed by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.
Sessions’ dismissal sent alarm waves through Washington and the rest of the nation, since Whitaker has called for limitations to the Mueller investigation, as well as its defunding.
Progressives, unsurprisingly, called for mass protests against Sessions’ firing, tweeting “#TrumpIsNotAboveTheLaw. Trump has crossed a red line – and we’re mobilizing. In January, our newly elected MoCs should launch investigations & hearings on day one. And tomorrow at 5 PM (local time), we march in the streets.”
However, their voices in protest were joined by top Republicans as well, who stated strongly that the Mueller investigation must go on.
Former presidential candidate and newly-elected senator of Utah, Mitt Romney, tweeted, “I want to thank Jeff Sessions for his service to our country as Attorney General. It is imperative that the important work of the Justice Department continues, and that the Mueller investigation proceeds to its conclusion unimpeded.”
Susan Collins, the senator from Maine, echoed Romney in her tweet as well. “It is imperative that the Administration not impede the Mueller investigation. I’m concerned Rod Rosenstein will no longer be overseeing the probe. Special Counsel Mueller must be allowed to complete his work without interference—regardless of who is AG.”
Democratic senators took the call one step further. Minority leader Chuck Schumer went as far as to call for Whitaker to recuse himself. “To #ProtectMueller’s investigation, Acting Attorney General Whitaker must recuse himself given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation.”
Sessions had been an avid supporter from the beginning of the Trump campaign, but ran afoul of the President when he recused himself from the probe on Russia’s interference after it was revealed that Sessions had had two meetings with the former ambassador from Russia, Sergey Kislyak.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein handled the Russia investigation, and in May 2017 appointed Mueller as special counsel for the investigation.
Sessions has since then stayed away from the Russia investigation, while he and Rosenstein have maintained the integrity of Mueller, while Whitaker has taken the opposite standpoint, accusing Mueller of “going too far.”
The President has long expressed his frustration with Sessions, saying in August 2017, “I put in an attorney general that never took control of the justice department.”