President Trump fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Reuters | 11/8/2018, 6 a.m.
President Trump was only a few weeks into his presidency in March 2017 when Mr. Sessions upset him. Rejecting White House entreaties not to do so, Mr. Sessions stepped aside from overseeing the FBI’s probe of potential collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Moscow. Mr. Sessions cited news reports of previously undisclosed meetings he had with Russia’s ambassador to Washington as his reason for recusal.
Mr. Rosenstein then took over supervision of the Russia investigation and appointed Mr. Mueller in May 2017 as the Justice Department’s special counsel to take over the FBI’s Russia probe after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
A permanent replacement for Mr. Sessions must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which Republicans will continue to control as a result of Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Mr. Mueller is pursuing an investigation into whether President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia, whether the president unlawfully tried to obstruct the probe and possible financial misconduct by President Trump’s family and associates. Mr. Mueller has brought charges against President Trump’s former campaign chairman and other campaign figures, as well as against 25 Russians and three firms accused of meddling in the campaign to help President Trump win.
President Trump has denied his campaign colluded with Russia.
President Trump publicly seethed over Mr. Sessions’ recusal and said he regretted appointing him. On Twitter, he blasted Mr. Sessions as “VERY weak” and urged him to stop the Russia investigation. In July 2017, he told the New York Times that if he had known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself, he never would have appointed him attorney general.
Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward wrote in his book “Fear” that President Trump, talking to a White House secretary, disparaged Mr. Sessions as “mentally retarded” and a “dumb Southerner” while mocking his accent.
There also were news reports in the weeks after Mr. Mueller’s appointment that Mr. Sessions had offered to resign. Mr. Sessions usually remained quiet on President Trump’s criticism, but defended himself in February 2018 after a Trump tweet criticizing his job performance by saying he would perform his duties “with integrity and honor.”
In August, Mr. Sessions punched back harder after President Trump said in a Fox News interview that Mr. Sessions “never took control of the Justice Department.” Mr. Sessions issued a statement saying he “took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in” and vowed not to allow it to be “improperly influenced by political considerations.”
As for his own involvement with Russia, Mr. Sessions was questioned in January by Mr. Mueller’s team and has offered shifting public accounts. He has said nothing improper transpired in his meetings during the campaign with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. In congressional testimony in November, he said he now recalled a meeting during the 2016 campaign in which a campaign adviser, with President Trump present, offered to use connections with Moscow to arrange a meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.