On the day-break of US mid-term election results, another key cabinet member has gotten the shock of his life in the two-year and few- months-old President Donald Trump administration.
President Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday after a yearlong public shaming campaign that raised questions about whether the president improperly 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. Whitaker was Sessions’ chief of staff and had been considered for a variety of jobs in the Trump administration, including the No. 2 post at Justice or as White House counsel.
From Sessions’ resignation letter: “I came to work at the Department of Justice every day determined to do my duty and serve my country. I have done so to the best of my ability to support the fundamental legal processes that are the foundation of justice.”
In September, Trump took his criticism to a new level when he appeared to completely disassociate Sessions with the administration, including Sessions’ border enforcement efforts. “I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,” Trump said then.
The departure of Sessions has been expected for weeks, yet the move immediately exposed new divisions between the president and many Republican lawmakers who regard Sessions as a champion of the conservative movement.
Laser-focused on Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, Trump has savaged him in interviews, tweets, and press conferences as “beleaguered” and often expressing “disappointment” in his attorney general.
In his new role, Whitaker also will oversee special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, prompting fears among Democratic lawmakers that Trump was seeking to derail the inquiry as it nears an end.
“Since the day I was honored 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.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing Mueller’s investigation until Whitaker’s appointment, was at the White House on Wednesday afternoon for a meeting, though he remained in his job. He was among those in an entourage of Justice leaders who accompanied Sessions as he exited the department for the last time Wednesday night.
An emotional Sessions clasped hands with Rosenstein and Whitaker, waved at a hastily gathered crowd in the department’s courtyard, then climbed in the backseat of a black SUV with his security detail for the ride home.
In a statement later Wednesday, Whitaker called his appointment a “true honor.”
“I am committed to leading a fair department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law, and seeks justice for all Americans,” Whitaker said.
He described Sessions as “a dedicated public servant.”
“It has been a privilege to work under his leadership,” Whitaker said. “He is a man of integrity who has served this nation well.”
Sessions joined Rex Tillerson, Secretary to State; Anthony Scaramucci, White House Director of Communications; Michael Flynn- Chief Security Officer; Kelly Sadler- Special Assistant to the President (Office of Communications); Steve Bannon- White House Chief Strategist and Reince Priebus- White House Chief of Staff.
Others who tasted the bitter pill were John F. Kelly- secretary of Homeland security and Mike Pompeo, director of Central Intelligence Agency who resigned their plum positions, among others.
Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Interior, Department of Justice, Department of Treasury, Department of Veteran Affairs and Central Intelligence Agency and Independent agencies have had their share of travail in the web of resignations or sacks.