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President Trump fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Reuters | 11/8/2018, 6 a.m.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired on Wednesday after receiving unrelenting criticism from President Trump for recusing himself from ...

WASHINGTON

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired on Wednesday after receiving unrelenting criticism from President Trump for recusing himself from an investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential race.

In a step that could have implications for the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, President Trump replaced Mr. Sessions with Matthew Whitaker, who will be acting attorney general. He had been Mr. Sessions’ chief of staff.

The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate immediately called on Mr. Whitaker to recuse himself from the Mueller probe.

“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,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

In an opinion piece for CNN that appeared on Aug. 6, 2017, while he was a commentator for the network, Mr. Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney, said Mr. Mueller would be crossing a line if he investigated the Trump family’s finances. The piece was titled: “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far.”

President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Reuters on Tuesday that he assumed Mr. Sessions’ departure was “not going to affect” the Mueller investigation.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is supervising the Russia investigation and has also faced criticism from the president, was seen by Reuters entering the White House on Wednesday afternoon.

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment on Mr. Sessions’ resignation and what it means for the probe.

President Trump announced Mr. Sessions’ departure on Twitter and thanked him for his service. Mr. Sessions said in a letter to President Trump that he had resigned at the president’s request.

Mr. Sessions’ exit had been widely expected to come soon after Tuesday’s congressional elections, in which Republicans retained their majority in the U.S. Senate but lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Never in modern history has a president attacked a cabinet member as frequently and harshly in public as President Trump did Mr. Sessions, 71, who had been one of the first members of Congress to back his presidential campaign in 2015.

Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, who is expected to chair the House Judiciary Committee starting in January, demanded answers in a tweet about President Trump’s reasons for the firing.

“Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation? We will be holding people accountable,” Congressman Nadler said on Twitter.

Mr. Mueller’s probe, operating under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department, already has yielded criminal charges against several Trump associates and has clouded the Trump presidency for many months.

Republicans repeatedly had urged President Trump not to oust Mr. Sessions, a former conservative U.S. senator from Alabama, before the elections lest it create political fallout. They also had argued that Mr. Sessions should be allowed a graceful exit after he doggedly carried out President Trump’s agenda on illegal immigration and other administration priorities.