WASHINGTON — Jeff Sessions is out as U.S. attorney general.
- Sessions submitted his letter at President Trump's request
- Matthew G. Whitaker will be acting attorney general
- Democrats worry how this will affect the Mueller investigation
President Trump tweeted Wednesday, hours after a live news conference, that Matthew G. Whitaker, Sessions' chief of staff, will serve as acting attorney general.
Sessions' resignation letter says the resignation came at Trump's request. He wrote to President Trump that he came to work every day "determined to do my duty and serve my country."
Sessions touted his efforts to go prosecute doctors and other health professionals for the ongoing opioid epidemic in the letter. He also trumpeted efforts to prosecute "transnational gangs that are bringing violence and death across our borders."
Sessions' also notably increased enforcement of the federal marijuana law, and worked to rollback discrimination protections for gay and transgender people.
"I have been honored to serve as attorney general and have worked to implement the law enforcement agenda based on the rule of law that formed a central part of your campaign for the presidentcy," Sessions wrote.
The Mueller Factor
Sessions, a former Republican senator from Alabama, was an early supporter of President Trump's.
However, his decision to recuse himself from directing the special investigation into the 2016 election by Robert Mueller earned him the president's ire, and it was something Trump came back to time and again over the last year in interviews and on social media, sometimes belittling Sessions in the process.
Where this puts the Mueller investigation is not immediately clear.
Justice Dept. spokeswoman Sarah Flores said Whitaker would be in charge of all matters under the Dept. of Justice.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer questioned whether Whitaker would continue to give the investigation its due.
"Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general,” Schumer said.
Last year Whitaker, who was a legal analyst for CNN as well as former U.S. attorney, wrote that he felt the Mueller investigation had gone too far in looking into Trump Organization financial records that were not related to the 2016 election. He suggested Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation, should limit the counsel's scope.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-NY, who is in line to become the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in January, found the timing of the announcement suspect.
"Americans must have answers immediately as to the reasoning behind @realDonaldTrump removing Jeff Sessions from @TheJusticeDept," Nadler tweeted. "Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation?"
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.