Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned Wednesday, after enduring more than a year of harsh criticism from President Donald Trump.
While the former Alabama senator was the first to endorse Trump on the 2016 campaign trail, the president quickly turned on Sessions after taking office. Trump viewed Sessions’ choice to recuse himself from the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the election as an act of disloyalty, and apparently never forgave him. In a September interview, Trump said, “I don’t have an attorney general.”
Now, just a day after Democrats regained the House majority, Sessions has stepped down. In his resignation letter, Sessions recounted his office’s success with restoring immigration enforcement and targeting the opioid epidemic, but does not comment on the Russia investigation.
Trump announced the change of staff on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, thanking Sessions for his service and announcing Matthew G. Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff, as the new acting attorney general.
Whitaker has been described by the New York Times as a Trump loyalist who has an “easy chemistry” with the president. In August of last year, he wrote an op-ed for CNN titled “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far,” where he denounced the special counsel’s decision to look into the Trump family finances.
The op-ed echoes the president’s declaration of the investigation as a “mere witch hunt” and calls for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to limit the scope of the special counsel’s investigation.
Whitaker also said legislation to protect Mueller would be “a mistake” in a tweet last year, adding that the nation “cannot have anyone unaccountable in executive branch.”
In his new position as acting attorney general, Whitaker will have the ability to fire Mueller, but only with a reasonable cause. It is unclear how this appointment will affect Rosenstein, who currently overseas Mueller’s investigation.