Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigns

Sessions’ departure comes after more than a year of public beratings from the president

Photo: EPA US Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the first sitting senator to endorse Donald Trump for president, would be no longer in charge of the Department of Justice. In a letter to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Wednesday Sessions submitted his resignation, which was delivered by hand to the White House after it was requested by President Trump earlier that day.

"At your request I am submitting my resignation," Sessions wrote in his letter.

His resignation is effective immediately, with Sessions' chief of staff Matthew Whitaker taking over as acting attorney general. Whitaker is expected to take charge of the Russia investigation and special counsel Robert Mueller from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In a statement, Whitaker promised to lead a "fair" department with high ethical standards.

"It is a true honor that the President has confidence in my ability to lead the Department of Justice as Acting Attorney General. 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," he said.

The resignation puts an end to what had been a tumultuous tenure for Sessions, originally one of Trump's earliest and most loyal surrogates as an Alabama Republican senator. He was a key figure in implementing Trump's vision for America and significantly rolled back Obama-era policies on immigration, police reform and civil rights. Notably, Sessions was an enforcer of much of the Trump administration's hardline approach on immigration and regularly praised the President's tough words on crime. But even as he continued to carry out the Trump agenda, his relationship with the President remained strained and fraught for months due to the ongoing Mueller investigation. In the last year Trump's dissatisfaction for Sessions was publicly reinforced by the president himself on a regular basis. The president, for example, called Sessions an “idiot” in May 2017, “beleaguered” in July 2017, and “disgraceful” in February of this year. In August, he complained that the Russia investigation would have never been launched at all if he had a “real” attorney general in place to stop it and he also mocked Sessions as "scared stiff and Missing in Action." Later the same month as Trump continued to rail against him, Sessions issued a statement firing back at Trump and declaring, "While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action."

Nevertheless, Sessions' departure from the Administration also comes a day after the midterm elections saw Republicans win the control of the Senate - which would confirm Trump's eventual permanent choice to head the Justice Department - and just weeks after Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud and Trump's former campaign chair Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight charges including tax fraud and bank fraud. 

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