Published: Fri, November 09, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

With Sessions Out, Dems Fear for Future of Mueller Probe

With Sessions Out, Dems Fear for Future of Mueller Probe

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has resigned as the country's chief law enforcement officer at the request of President Donald Trump, throwing the future of the special counsel's Russian Federation investigation into uncertainty. As acting attorney general, Whitaker will presumably - assuming he has no conflicts of interest - begin overseeing the special counsel's probe.

That duty has belonged to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and closely monitors his work.

But it's not typical for chiefs of staff to replace the head of an agency when that head resigns, as former CIA staffer and NBC contributor Ned Price pointed out.

Other Democratic congressional leaders, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner issued almost identical tweets urging Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation, citing his vocal criticism of the probe. "That's why Cabinet Secretaries have Deputies".

Trump has made clear that he believes he has the power to fire Mueller altogether, through the leadership of the Justice Department or outside it.

Trump was only a few weeks into his presidency in March 2017 when Sessions upset him by stepping aside from overseeing an Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow, citing news reports of previously undisclosed meetings he had with Russia's ambassador to Washington for his recusal.

In that scenario, Mueller's budget could be reduced "so low that his investigation grinds to nearly a halt", Whitaker said during an interview with CNN in July 2017 before he joined the Justice Department.

He also ran for Iowa Senate unsuccessfully.

Whitaker's views as an outside commentator before joining the government have been music to the ears of Trump and Republicans.

The Mueller investigation has so far produced 32 criminal charges and four guilty pleas from Trump associates. Trump belittled Sessions but, perhaps following the advice of aides, held off on firing him. He has been rebuilding his relationship with Trump and senior White House officials during the presidency.

In piercing attacks, Trump called Sessions weak and beleaguered, complained that he wasn't more aggressively pursuing allegations of corruption against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and called it "disgraceful" that Sessions wasn't more serious in scrutinizing the origins of the Russian Federation investigation for possible law enforcement bias - even though the attorney general did ask the Justice Department's inspector general to examine those claims.

Sessions endured most of the name-calling in silence, though he did issue two public statements defending the department, including one in which he said he would serve "with integrity and honor" for as long as he was in the job. He recused himself the next day, saying it would be inappropriate to oversee an investigation into a campaign he was part of.

"Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller's investigation?"

The Democrats, who won the House in the mid-terms, have vowed to protect it.

"If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level".

Mr Trump tweeted shortly after the resignation was announced, naming a temporary replacement of Sessions.

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