Trump Sacks Jeff Sessions In 'Blatant Attempt' To Undermine Russia Investigation, Say Democrats
U.S. President Donald Trump has fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, after months of unrelenting criticism over the Russia investigation.
Sessions delivered an undated resignation letter to Trump on Wednesday afternoon local time, in which he says the resignation comes "at your request".
It throws into question the future of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Sessions' chief of staff Matthew Whitaker -- who has previously described the Russia investigation as a "witch hunt" and a "lynch mob" -- has been named acting Attorney General.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will no longer be overseeing the investigation, CBS reports, meaning that Whitaker will oversee it instead.
Trump's firing of Sessions comes one day after the Republican Party lost control of the House of Representatives, and hours after a fiery press conference at the White House.
Rosenstein was called to the White House on Wednesday afternoon for a "special" meeting, the details of which are as yet unclear.
Removing Sessions and installing Whitaker is a "blatant attempt" to undermine the investigation, said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
"Given his threats to undermine and weaken the investigation, Matthew Whitaker should recuse himself from any involvement in [special counsel Robert] Mueller's investigation," Pelosi said.
"Congress must take immediate action to protect the rule of law and integrity of the investigation."
Never in modern history has a president attacked a Cabinet member as frequently and harshly in public as Trump did Sessions, reports Reuters.
Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election, which allowed for special counsel Robert Mueller to step in.
"If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren't they the subject of the investigation?" Trump tweeted in February.
"Why didn't Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren't Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!"
Trump has also publicly repeated criticism of Sessions that his recusal was an "unforced betrayal", and said that if he knew Sessions was going to recuse himself, he would "have quickly picked someone else".
Whitaker, who will now oversee the Russia investigation, penned an op-ed for CNN last year in which he claimed Mueller was "dangerously close" to crossing a red line.
"This information is deeply concerning to me. It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump's finances or his family's finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else. That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel."
Democrats have indicated that they'll be using their midterm win in the House this week to reopen an intelligence committee investigation into Russian interference, and pursue new avenues into Trump's business dealings with Russia.
"Clearly, the President has something to hide," tweeted Chuck Schumer, arguing that Whitaker should now also recuse himself from the investigation.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said that Trump's firing of Sessions "brings us one step closer to a constitutional crisis", urging Congress to protect Mueller.
Trump advised on Twitter that "a permanent replacement" for Sessions "will be nominated at a later date."
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