UPDATE 2 — 11/13, 11:27 a.m. EST: The Associated Press is reporting the state of Maryland will file a lawsuit against President Trump Tuesday for unconstitutionally appointing Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general.
On Friday, Reuters reported Senate Democrats are considering a similar lawsuit for Trump’s elevation of Whitaker in violation of federal law and Article II of the U.S. Constitution.
Democrats and some law experts argue only DOJ officials already approved by the Senate can be appointed as acting attorney general without “advise and consent”, such as Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein or Solicitor General Noel Francisco.
UPDATE — 11/9, 8:28 p.m. EST: Vox sources within the Trump administration say acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker privately counseled President Trump on how to investigate the FBI for allegedly spying on Trump’s 2016 campaign while serving as DOJ chief of staff.
Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein both reportedly resisted Trump’s call for such a probe in May, but Whitaker advised the White House on a strategy to launch the effort and “committed to extract as much as he could from the Justice Department on the president’s behalf.”
One day after voters ousted a myriad of moderate House Republicans from office, Jeff Sessions stepped down as the nation’s chief law enforcement official, ending an often contentious relationship with the Trump White House.
Mr. Sessions’ former chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, has been appointed to lead the DOJ on an interim basis until a successor is named. On Thursday, the Washington Post reported Whitaker will not recuse him from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation despite warnings from top congressional Democrats.
Given his record of threats to undermine & weaken the Russia investigation, Matthew Whitaker should recuse himself from any involvement in Mueller’s investigation. Congress must take immediate action to protect the rule of law and integrity of the investigation. #FollowTheFacts
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) November 7, 2018
Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 7, 2018
Opening his undated letter of resignation by stating his departure from the Justice Department was not of his own volition, Sessions outlined a litany of accomplishments while serving as attorney general and expressed gratitude for the privilege of “supporting legal processes” which are the “foundations of justice.”
“We prosecuted the largest number of violent offenders and firearm defendants in our country’s history. We took on transnational gangs that are bringing violence and death across our borders and protected national security. We did our part to restore immigration enforcement. We targeted the opioid epidemic by prosecuting doctors, pharmacists, and anyone else who contributes to this crisis with new law enforcement tools and determination. . . . After two years of rising violent crime and homicides prior to this administration, those trends have reversed“, Sessions wrote of his tenure.
An unsurprising departure, Sessions’ dismissal follows months of criticism from President Trump.
Conflict between Sessions and the White House arose early in his tenure at Justice when in March 2017 Sessions announced he would recuse himself from current or potential probes involving alleged Russian influence in the 2016 election.
At the time, Sessions cited his desire to avoid any potential conflict over his role in Trump’s presidential bid.
Relations continued to sour for the remainder of Sessions’ period in office, and reached a boiling point in August and September when the DOJ pursued indictments against two GOP congressmen, California’s Duncan Hunter and New York’s Chris Collins, both of whom are on-track to win reelection.
Despite the difficulty between the White House and DOJ, Trump repeatedly assured the public Sessions was safe in his job, only adding in September Sessions’ fate beyond midterm elections was uncertain.
A former prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s office and U.S. senator, Sessions was among Trump’s earliest congressional supporters, advising then-candidate Trump on immigration and national security matters.
It is speculated Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Transportation Department counsel Steven Bradbury, former federal Judge Janice Rogers Brown and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are all under consideration to replace Sessions.
Editor’s note: The last paragraph of this article has been updated.
[Reuters] [Wall Street Journal] [CNN] [CBS New York] [Politico] [Photo courtesy AP/CHARLIE NEIBERGALL via Wall Street Journal]