Trump fires AG Jeff Sessions

President Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday after a yearlong campaign to embarrass him that raised questions about whether the president inappropriately interfered with the Justice Department’s inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump, who requested Sessions' resignation, named Matthew Whitaker to serve as interim attorney general.

Background

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions 111 is an American politician and lawyer who served as the 84th Attorney General of the United States from 20187 to 2018. He was one of the first senators to endorse Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Analysis

President Donald Trump on Wednesday fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"At your request I am submitting my resignation," Sessions wrote in a letter to White House chief of staff John Kelly. "Since the day I was honoured to be sworn in as attorney general of the United States, I came to work at the Department of Justice every day determined to do my duty and serve my country," Sessions said in a seven-paragraph letter. "I have done so to the best of my ability to support the fundamental legal processes that are the foundation of justice."

Mr. Trump has repeatedly censured his top law enforcement official since Mr. Sessions stepped aside from the Russia inquiry in March 2017. The wide-ranging investigation - overseen by the Department of Justice - has resulted in a series of criminal charges against several Trump associates.

In July 2017 Mr. Trump told the New York Times: "Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else." Mr. Sessions voluntarily removed himself from the probe after Democrats accused him of failing to disclose contacts with the Russian ambassador during his Senate confirmation hearing. The attorney general later said he had forgotten about those meetings, which happened during the Trump election campaign.

Mr. Trump has at various times belittled Mr. Sessions as "VERY weak" and "DISGRACEFUL".

CBS News is reporting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is no longer leading the Mueller inquiry and that Matthew Whitaker will now assume control. The president cannot directly fire the special counsel, whose investigation Mr. Trump has repeatedly decried as a witch hunt. But Mr. Sessions' replacement will have the power to fire Mr. Mueller or end the inquiry.

Mr. Rosenstein was summoned to the White House on Wednesday for what was described as a previously scheduled meeting. It was the deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller to lead the Russia inquiry, after Mr. Trump fired FBI director James Comey in May 2017.

The special counsel's probe has also been investigating whether Mr. Comey's firing amounted to attempted obstruction of justice. There has also been a question mark over Mr. Rosenstein's future since it was reported he had discussed invoking a constitutional clause to oust President Trump. This summer he was unexpectedly summoned to the White House amid conjecture that he was about to be fired - however, no announcement came.

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who served under President George W. Bush, credited Sessions with “maintaining unusual equanimity and dignity under fire” while dutifully carrying out Trump’s agenda on a range of issues, including immigration and violent crime enforcement.

Counterpoint

Democrats were enraged by the attorney general's ouster, with the Democratic National Committee observing that the appointee has not been confirmed for the role by the US Senate as required. The Democrats' Senate leader Mr. Schumer said protecting the Mueller investigation was "paramount" in light of the move.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said: "It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions' firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by President Trump to undermine and end Special Counsel Mueller's investigation."

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served during President Barack Obama's administration, tweeted to say that anyone who tried to interfere with the Mueller investigation "must be held accountable".

Assessment

Our assessment is that Trump sees a certain urgency in shutting down Mueller’s probe and this comes soon after the GOP has lost control of the Senate. We believe that the noose was tightening on Jeff Sessions after the caustic remarks by Trump on him. We feel that Mueller on his part will try to expedite the inquiry on potential collusion between Trump presidential campaign and Moscow. We also believe that Congressional Democrats are likely to move quickly to investigate issues including Trump's personal finances, allegations of corruption and possible collusion with Russia.