Jeff Sessions forced out as attorney general by Trump

In this July 13, 2018 photo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks in Portland, Maine. | Associated Press photo by Robert F. Bukaty, St. George News

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushed out Wednesday as the country’s chief law enforcement officer after enduring more than a year of blistering and personal attacks from President Donald Trump over the Alabama Republican’s recusal from the Russia investigation.

In a one-page letter, Sessions told the president that he was submitting his resignation “at your request.”

Trump announced in a tweet that he was naming Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker, a former United States attorney from Iowa, as acting attorney general.

The resignation was the culmination of a toxic relationship that frayed just weeks into the attorney general’s tumultuous tenure, when he stepped aside from the investigation into potential coordination between the president’s Republican campaign and Russia.

Trump blamed Session’s decision for opening the door to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who took over the Russia investigation and began examining whether Trump’s hectoring of Sessions was part of a broader effort to obstruct justice and stymie the probe.

The implications for Mueller’s investigation were not immediately clear. The Justice Department did not announce a departure for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller more than a year and a half ago and has closely overseen his work since then.

President Donald Trump listens to a question during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. | Associated Press photo by Evan Vucci, St. George News

The relentless attacks on Sessions came even though he was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump and despite the fact that his crime-fighting agenda and priorities – particularly his hawkish immigration enforcement policies – largely mirrored the president’s.

But the relationship was irreparably damaged in March 2017 when Sessions, acknowledging previously undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador and citing his work as a campaign aide, recused himself from the Russia investigation.

The decision infuriated Trump, who repeatedly lamented that he would have never selected Sessions if he had known the attorney general would recuse. The recusal left the investigation in the hands of Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel two months later after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey.

The rift lingered for the duration of Sessions’ tenure, and despite praising the president’s agenda and hewing to his priorities, the attorney general never managed to return to Trump’s good graces.

The deteriorating relationship became a soap opera stalemate for the administration. Trump belittled Sessions but, perhaps following the advice of aides, held off on firing him. The attorney general, for his part, proved determined to remain in the position until dismissed. A logjam broke when Republican senators who had publicly backed Sessions began signaling a willingness to consider a new attorney general.

In attacks delivered on Twitter, in person and in interviews, Trump called Sessions weak and beleaguered, complained that he wasn’t more aggressively pursuing allegations of corruption against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and called it “disgraceful” that Sessions wasn’t more serious in scrutinizing the origins of the Russia investigation for possible law enforcement bias — even though the attorney general did ask the Justice Department’s inspector general to look into those claims.

The broadsides escalated in recent months, with Trump telling a television interviewer that Sessions “had never had control” of the Justice Department and snidely accusing him on Twitter of not protecting Republican interests by allowing two GOP congressmen to be indicted before the election.

Sessions endured most of the name-calling in silence, though he did issue two public statements defending the department, including one in which he said he would serve “with integrity and honor” for as long as he was in the job.

The recusal from the Russia investigation allowed him to pursue the conservative issues he had long championed as a senator, often in isolation among fellow Republicans.

He found satisfaction in being able to reverse Obama-era policies that he and other conservatives say flouted the will of Congress, including by encouraging prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges they could and by promoting more aggressive enforcement of federal marijuana law. He also announced media leak crackdowns and tougher policies against opioids, and his Justice Department defended a since-abandoned administration policy that resulted in parents being separated from their children at the border.

His agenda unsettled liberals who said that Sessions’ focus on tough prosecutions marked a return to failed drug war tactics that unduly hurt minorities and the poor and that his rollbacks of protections for gay and transgender people amount to discrimination.

Some Democrats also considered Sessions too eager to do Trump’s bidding and overly receptive to his grievances.

Sessions, for instance, directed senior prosecutors to examine potential corruption in a uranium field transaction that some Republicans have said may have implicated Clinton in wrongdoing and benefited donors of the Clinton Foundation. He also fired one of the president’s primary antagonists, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, just before he was to have retired — a move Trump hailed as a “great day for democracy.”

Despite it all, Sessions never found himself back in favor with the president.

Their relationship wasn’t always fractured. Sessions was a close campaign aide, attending national security meetings and introducing him at rallies in a red “Make America Great Again” hat.

But the problems started after he told senators during his confirmation hearing that he had never met with Russians during the campaign. The Justice Department, responding to a Washington Post report, soon acknowledged that Sessions had actually had two encounters during the campaign with the then-Russian ambassador. He recused himself the next day, saying it would be inappropriate to oversee an investigation into a campaign he was part of.

The announcement set off a frenzy inside the White House, with Trump directing his White House counsel to call Sessions beforehand and urge him not to step aside. Sessions rejected the entreaty. Mueller’s team, which has interviewed Sessions, has been investigating the president’s attacks on him and his demands to have a loyalist in charge of the Russia investigation.

Sessions had been protected for much of his tenure by the support of Senate Republicans, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who had said he would not schedule a confirmation hearing for another attorney general if Trump fired him.

But that support began to fade, with Grassley suggesting over the summer that he might have time for a hearing after all.

And Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, another Judiciary Committee member who once said there’d be “holy hell to pay” if Trump fired Sessions, called the relationship “dysfunctional” and said he thought the president had the right after the midterm to select a new attorney general.

After Wednesday’s announcement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said it is “paramount” that the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller be protected by President Donald Trump’s new attorney general.

Schumer said he finds the timing of Sessions’ departure “very suspect,” adding that it would spark a “constitutional crisis” if Trump forced out Sessions as a “prelude” to ending or limiting Mueller’s investigation.

Similar questions were raised by the top Democrat in the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, who is in line to become the chairman of the Judiciary panel when Democrats take control of the House in January. Nadler said he wanted to know why Trump is making the change and “who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation?”

Written by ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Rice November 7, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    Rosenstein on his way to the White house for a meeting with trump as well. Looks like more obstruction. Luckily there’s some checks now that Democrats are running the house.

    • ladybugavenger November 7, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      I havent watched the news in a long time. Fill me in. What are the going to obstruct?

    • KR567 November 7, 2018 at 10:57 pm

      LadyBug ….uh watch the news

    • Happy Commenter November 8, 2018 at 1:55 pm

      That’s all the dramacrats do is obstruct….They also chase unicorns.. so what?

      • bikeandfish November 8, 2018 at 11:29 pm

        Do you remember what the Republicans did for their years as a minority party under Obama?

        We have such short memories as a nation.

        General partisan recipe:

        In the minority: obstruction = good
        In the majority: obstruction = bad

        Its all pretty funny given the recent history of the ACA. The RNC obstructed passionately to stop it from passing. Never gave up on the resentment and animus. Heck, our “law and order” president is doing everything he can to undermine the law, ie ACA, itself. I was against the ACA but the utter hypocrisy of partisan comments like “That’s all the dramacrats do is obstruct” would be funny if it wasn’t so common.

  • utahdiablo November 7, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    Good, get the Hell out Sessions….you haven’t done anything the entire time you were AG!

    • bikeandfish November 7, 2018 at 10:39 pm

      Sessions “successes” consistent with Trump’s agenda:

      -Orchestrated immigration policy changes at border
      – Ruled against DACA and refused to defend it in court
      – Rescinded policy protecting transgender protections, especially young students
      – Ruled civil rights law does not protect sexual orientation
      – Significantly changed Justice Dep. approach to investigating police use of force

      Just to name a few “successful” efforts on his part upholding Trump’s expectations.

      Seems like that list completely invalidates your claim.

      • sheepobserver November 8, 2018 at 8:28 am

        I think what people mean when they say he hasn’t done anything is that he didn’t lock Hillary up, like he ran on. That’s what seemed to sell at the rallies (and still does).
        It’s weird because the people supporting the idea of “locking her up”, are the same people praising “innocent until proven guilty”.
        Maybe the new guy will discover new evidence, conduct an investigation, and have a trial for Hillary……..if not, he too will have accomplished nothing I suspect…….

        • bikeandfish November 8, 2018 at 9:14 am

          I sure hope his administration is smarter than that type of political reprisal. I think thet know there isca difference between stirring up the base and using the Justice Dept. for partisan hit jobs. I like to think they are understand that some boundaries are just too dangerous to cross. That said, I can see how some of his fans could be confused by the lack of “locking her up” after years of his team stirring up their resentment.

      • ladybugavenger November 8, 2018 at 10:17 am

        I dont see anything wrong with your list

        • bikeandfish November 8, 2018 at 12:05 pm

          That was the point of the post. Sessions supported Trump’s legal goals. Claiming Sessions did nothing as AG (as the original commentor did) is false.

  • ladybugavenger November 7, 2018 at 11:21 pm

    He should gave resigned when he recused himself.

    • bikeandfish November 8, 2018 at 9:09 am

      Can you explain that one? Professionals recuse themselves when there is an ethical conflict of interest in one particular situation. The AG oversees significantly more than the Mueller case.

      • ladybugavenger November 8, 2018 at 10:19 am

        I believe trump used him as a shield and the moment he recused himself he was no longer a shield. ….

        • bikeandfish November 8, 2018 at 12:00 pm

          Are you saying you agree with Trump using him that way, for personal protection?

          I disagree with Sessions but he is classic professional. He knew his job and legal role was about something greater than protecting the POTUS. The AG and Dept. Of Justice aren’t the president’s personal legal counsel (ge already has those in the WH and out).

          • ladybugavenger November 8, 2018 at 8:46 pm

            It would have saved sessions some heartache. That’s all. It doesnt matter if I agree or disagree. There is definitely a reason why I did not pursue politics. For one, I like my soul.

          • bikeandfish November 8, 2018 at 11:23 pm

            Thanks for clarifying. I agree. Though I think Sessions really wanted the job. He volunteered to step down last year, I believe (not 100% o this one), but Trump didn’t take him up on the offer.

  • Lee Saunders November 8, 2018 at 11:44 am

    I think the Trump feels the noose tightening. What I can’t figure out is if he’s innocent on all fronts as he says he is, what is he worried about? Why all the talk about ending or impeding the Mueller investigation? If he’s pure as Sister Teresa, what is he worried about? If he’s not, then he needs to pay the price, same as any other citizen. How long can he hide behind, “I can’t release my taxes because they’re being audited?” Maybe they are complex, but 2 plus years to do a single year audit? How long will folks believe his set of “facts”, like the US is the only country in the world that allows birthright citizenship? Did some 30 plus other countries just discontinue that policy? How long will folks accept that he alone is responsible for the good economy and so conveniently forget that he inherited a strong recovering economy? Have they forgotten that more jobs were created in the last 18 months of the previous administration than in the first 18 months of this administration? Except for perhaps the folks that are just too entrenched to “unback” him, after the spectacle of his press conference, I think he’s losing credibility with many or most thoughtful folks.

    The 2020 election will be very interesting, also, especially if the Democrats can finally manage to get their stuff together and keep their base motivated. The who and where they voted statistics for this election are very, very interesting.

    • Happy Commenter November 8, 2018 at 2:27 pm

      He’s not worried at all… You dramacrats have very vivid imaginations!

      • Rice November 8, 2018 at 3:56 pm

        He may not be but he should be.

        • Happy Commenter November 8, 2018 at 6:51 pm

          Hahahahaha! How’s that imagination treating you?

          • Rice November 9, 2018 at 8:54 am

            I’m not by any means trying to change your mind because you don’t seem like the type of person open for that conversation, but I would like to understand your perspective. What do you think the presidents reasoning is for firing James Comey, Forcing Sessions to resign, bypassing Rod Rosenstein which would be the legitimate succession for AG, and installing DOJ chief of staff Mathew Whittaker as acting AG without any senate confirmation?

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