In a long-expected but still shocking move, President Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions just hours after the 2018 midterm elections. He made the announcement via Twitter:
Sessions quickly issued his own resignation letter, admitting that he was resigning at Trump’s request. In that letter, Sessions explained, “we have restored and upheld the rule of law – a glorious tradition that each of us has a responsibility to safeguard. We have operated with integrity and have lawfully and aggressively advanced the policy agenda of this administration.”
Sessions’ replacement, Matthew Whitaker, has written critically about the Mueller investigation before; Whitaker’s elevation means that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein will no longer be in an oversight position over the Mueller investigation.
That investigation threw an early wrench into Trump’s relationship with Sessions, who had been Trump’s earliest presidential supporter in the Senate. Sessions recused himself from oversight of any investigation that touched on the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with the Russian government, and thus lost his ability to shield Trump from investigative scrutiny. Trump never forgot it, and never forgave Sessions, whom he routinely derided from his perch on Twitter.
Sessions should earn praise for honestly running his department in a fashion no Obama attorney general ever did: he didn’t act as Trump’s wingman, but as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. That was his duty, and he fulfilled it.
Now the question becomes whether the man who takes his place, Whitaker, will do anything to hamstring the Mueller investigation, which is set to draw to its close. Sessions’ exit also opens up the question of who will permanently fill the position. With a renewed Senate majority, Trump will have the ability to cram through anyone of his choice.