President Donald Trump announced in a tweet Wednesday that he replaced Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“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,” the tweet read. “He will serve our Country well...
“....We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date.”
The replacement raises questions about the future of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and obstruction of justice.
“The Justice Department did not announce a departure for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller more than a year and a half ago and has closely overseen his work since then,” according to The Associated Press.
But Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told The Hill in a statement that “the Acting Attorney General is in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice,” which would include the Russia probe.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that “it would create a constitutional crisis if this were a prelude to ending or greatly limiting the Mueller investigation.”
And U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler — who the Associated Press says is in line to be the chairman of the Judiciary panel when Democrats take control of House in January after the 2018 midterms — warned that “we will be holding people accountable.”
Sessions was often a target of Trump’s after he recused himself from the Russia investigation in May 2017, as noted by The New York Times. Trump tweeted this June that “the Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn’t tell me he was going to recuse himself.”
“I would have quickly picked someone else. So much time and money wasted , so many lives ruined... and Sessions knew better than most that there was No Collusion!”
Whitaker, who is at least temporarily replacing Sessions, said in a 2017 CNN interview that “I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced, it would recess appointment and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigations grinds to almost a halt.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, from South Carolina, praised Sessions for serving “our nation well and honorably.” He had previously said in 2017 that “there will be holy hell to pay” if Sessions was fired.
“As to me, I will be part of a larger Republican majority in the United States Senate -- working with the President and my Republican and Democratic colleagues -- to make America safer and more prosperous,” he wrote.