Ending a White House tenure marked by hard-line immigration policies that were condemned by the international community and repeated attacks from President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had resigned at the request of President Donald Trump on Wednesday.
Following an aggressive, meandering press conference where he discussed Tuesday’s election results, Trump announced on Twitter that Sessions had resigned and would be replaced for the time being by his former chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, until a new attorney general is nominated.
Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 and was a vocal supporter of him on the campaign trail.
“Jeff Sessions’ long history of racism and lying under oath would have disqualified him from serving as Attorney General under anyone but a racist liar like Donald Trump,” CREDO Action Co-Director Heidi Hess said. “No one who cares equal justice under the law will be sad to see him leave the Justice Department.”
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But a rift between the president and Sessions began almost immediately after the attorney general took office, when he recused himself from overseeing the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s campaign amid harsh criticism and demands from government ethics groups.
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“Jeff Sessions’ long history of racism and lying under oath would have disqualified him from serving as Attorney General under anyone but a racist liar like Donald Trump. No one who cares equal justice under the law will be sad to see him leave the Justice Department.” —Heidi Hess, CREDO ActionThe president has insisted repeatedly that Sessions should not have recused himself, suggesting a fundamental misunderstanding of the attorney general’s role—to defend not the president in legal matters, but the nation.
Trump tweeted that a new nominee for attorney general will be announced at a later date. For now, the Justice Department will be headed by Whitaker, who in 2017 penned an opinion piece for CNN in which he argued that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s possible obstruction of justice and his campaign’s contacts with Russia was “going too far.”
Moreover, a statement from the DOJ suggested that Whitaker would now be overseeing the Mueller investigation until a new nominee is confirmed, as he has not recused himself from doing so.
“We’re deeply concerned that Trump is again trying to interfere with the Trump-Russia investigation by forcing Sessions’ resignation,” Hess said.
“Whoever becomes the next Attorney General of the United States—whether acting or permanent—must make a public commitment not to interfere in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause.
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