Attorney General Jeff Sessions has resigned, effective immediately; the first sentence of his resignation letter, addressed to President Trump, is “At your request I am submitting my resignation.” That sentence, standing alone in its own paragraph, makes it quite clear that the resignation was Trump’s idea, not Sessions’s – and it seems that Sessions was trying to make that point by structuring his letter in that way. Just one day after the midterm elections, after Trump already made news today by being angry and disrespectful at a press conference, Trump has yet again turned the news cycle over to a new subject, in this case to his contentious relationship with Jeff Sessions and what appears to be its ignoble end.
Earlier reports had emerged that Trump would be planning to shake up his Cabinet after the midterms, but not even 24 hours have passed since the polls closed and Trump is already ridding himself of Sessions. While there are no reports that Trump also plans to move to get rid of Robert Mueller, it is hard not to have the Mueller investigation cross your mind upon hearing that Sessions has been edged out, because the primary point of contention between Trump and Session was Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation, a state of affairs about which Trump has frequently, publicly, and vocally complained.
Now Sessions is out, Trump has said that Sessions’s chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, would now become the acting attorney general until Trump nominates a replacement. Here we might note that Trump did not suggest Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is in charge of the Russia investigation and who appointed Robert Mueller, to replace Sessions. Sessions being ousted also puts Rosenstein in jeopardy of either no longer being in charge of the Russia investigation, since Sessions’s replacement would likely not recuse themselves, or losing his job, possibly both. According to The Hill:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has resigned as the top Justice Department official at President Trump’s request, a development that is likely to spark a firestorm of criticism following the midterm elections. The decision punctuates months of criticism by President Trump of his top law enforcement officer over his recusal from the ongoing Russia investigation. And it confirms widespread speculation that Trump would move to fire Sessions sometime after the midterms. Sessions agreed to resign at Trump’s request, according to a copy of his resignation letter obtained by The Hill…Trump made the announcement over Twitter, thanking Sessions for his service and wishing him “well.” The president revealed that Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’s chief of staff, would take over as acting attorney general and said a permanent replacement would be nominated “at a later date.”
As mentioned above, President Trump again used to Twitter to announce another of his Cabinet members had been ousted, first going on about Whitaker before adding a second tweet, almost as an afterthought, mentioning Sessions. In the first tweet Trump wrote “We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States. He will serve our Country well….” before adding in a second tweet that “….We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date.”
….We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
One might be left wondering why today was the day. For Trump to distract from the positive news for Democrats about the midterm elections? To distract from a press conference today that highlighted Trump’s disrespect and hostility toward the press, as well as his apparent inability to control his temper? Or is it just timed randomly as yet another product of Trump’s impulsive, angry, narcissistic personality and the chaos that surrounds it? Or is Trump perhaps planning to move against Mueller before Democrats take the House majority in January, and this is but the first step? We shall have to wait to see.