Sessions resigns as attorney general at Trump’s request, leaving Mueller probe in new hands
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Jeff Sessions has resigned as attorney general effective immediately after being asked to do so by President Trump.
“At your request, I am submitting my resignation,” Sessions wrote in an undated letter to the president.
“Since the day I was honored to be sworn in as Attorney General of the United States, I came to work at the Department of Jusitce every day determined to do my duty and serve my country,” Sessions wrote. “I have done so to the best of my ability, working to support the fundamental legal processes that are the foundation of justice.”
Trump tweeted that Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew G. Whitaker, will serve as acting attorney general.
On Twitter, Trump thanked Sessions for his service and announced that Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew G. Whitaker, will serve as acting attorney general and that a permanent replacement will take place at a later date.
Previously, Trump would not say whether Sessions — who he has repeatedly criticized throughout his tenure — would be safe in his job after the midterm elections.
“I just would love to have him do a great job,” Trump told Bloomberg News on Aug. 30.
“I’d love to have him look at the other side,” Trump added, underscoring his demand for Sessions to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton and the origins of the Russia investigation.
Earlier in August, in an interview with Fox News, Trump lashed out at Sessions, saying he failed to take control of the Department of Justice.
In his most forceful public rebuke to date, Sessions hit back shortly after, saying he “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close Trump confidante, predicted Sessions would be out of his job in the near future, but insisted Trump should wait until after November’s midterm elections.
“The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that’s qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice,” Graham said at the time. “Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”
Tensions developed between Trump and Sessions in March 2017, when Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation and Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein took over.
Rosenstein soon appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia probe, angering the president.
Trump repeatedly called on Sessions to end the probe on Twitter and TV interviews.
“…This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!” Trump tweeted on August 1st.
Sessions was the first sitting U.S. senator to endorse then-candidate Trump.
Sessions parlayed that support to become attorney general, a role he held at the state level in Alabama.
The president’s priorities and Sessions’ mirrored each other. Both tough on immigration, the opioid crisis, and crime, both men have a pro-law enforcement perspective.
Aside from the president lashing out at him, Sessions’ tenure as attorney general has largely been focused on carrying out the policies of the administration and most notably, the zero-tolerance immigration policy which lead to the separation of families on the U.S.-Mexico border.
When Attorney General Sessions announced the policy in May, he warned those coming to the country illegally that the administration would prosecute them.
“I have put in place a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border. If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple. If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” he said at an event in San Diego.
The policy was criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Sessions also sent more judges and prosecutors to the southern border to help with processing illegal border crossers.
In his resignation letter, Sessions described restoring and upholding the “rule of law” as his most important legacy as attorney general. “We have operated with integrity and have lawfully and aggressively advanced the policy agenda of this administration,” Sessions wrote.
He called his work implementing the “law enforcement agenda based on the rule of law” a “central part” of Trump’s campaign for presidency.
Sessions also thanked the “fabulous men and women in law enforcement,” calling it his greatest honor to serve alongside them.
The attorney general also focused on pro-law enforcement priorities and often echoed the president in touting law enforcement’s objectives.
“Let me say this loud and clear: as long as I am the Attorney General of the United States, the Department of Justice will have the back of all honest and honorable law enforcement officers,” Sessions said at the 25th Annual Top Cops Awards in May.
Sessions was also a regular steward for rigorous opioid prosecution. Just recently, in Cleveland, Sessions announced four opioid cases, each targeting the selling and distribution of opioids, something that he stressed was important to the president.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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