Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned today at the request of President Trump, with Trump tweeting the news soon after he wrapped up an extensive post-election press conference.
“We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States. He will serve our Country well,” Trump tweeted. “We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date.”
“Dear Mr. President, At your request, I am submitting my resignation,” Sessions wrote in his resignation letter. “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. I have done so to the best of my ability, working to support the fundamental legal processes that are the foundation of justice.”
“The team we assembled embraced your directive to be a law and order Department of Justice. We prosecuted the largest number of violent offenders and firearm defendants in our country’s history. We took 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. And we have seen results. After two years of rising violent crime and homicides prior to this administration, those trends have reversed–thanks to the hard work of our prosecutors and law enforcement around the country,” he wrote.
“I am particularly grateful to the fabulous men and women in law enforcement all over this country with whom I have served. I have had no greater honor than to serve along them. As I have said many times, they have my thanks and I will always have their backs.”
Sessions said that in his tenure as attorney general “we have restored and upheld the rule of law – a glorious tradition that each of us has a responsibility to safeguard.”
“We have operated with integrity and have lawfully and aggressively advanced the policy agenda of this administration,” he added. “I have been honored to serve as Attorney General and have worked to implement the law enforcement agenda based on the rule of law that formed a central part of your campaign for the Presidency. Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. President.”
Democrats quickly demanded that Whitaker, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa during the George W. Bush administration and a former Iowa Senate candidate, recuse himself from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s campaign influence operation. Whitaker wrote a CNN op-ed in August 2017 arguing that “Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing” by reportedly looking into Trump’s finances. In 2014, Whitaker led the Iowa state treasurer campaign of Sam Clovis, a grand jury witness in the Mueller investigation who withdrew his name from consideration for a USDA appointment last year because of his ties to the probe.
“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,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).