Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the first sitting senator to endorse Donald Trump for president, is no longer in charge of the Department of Justice.
Sessions submitted his resignation in a letter to White House chief of staff John Kelly on Wednesday afternoon. Sessions’ resignation letter was delivered by hand to the White House after it was requested by President Trump earlier Wednesday.
Trump tweeted out the announcement soon after it was made. Trump thanked Sessions for his work and said Sessions’ chief of staff would be acting attorney general.
….We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
In his letter to Trump, Sessions ticked off a list of accomplishments.
“Most importantly as my time as attorney general, we have restored and upheld the rule of law,” Sessions wrote.
“Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. President,” Sessions said in his closing.
Sessions’ departure from the Trump administration comes after more than a year and a half of public beratings from the president, who continually put the blame on him for special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian election interference.
When asked earlier about Sessions’ job security at a press conference Wednesday, Trump said he would rather answer the question later.
One of Trump’s most recent attacks came in an interview with Fox News, when he said Sessions “never took control of the Justice Department.”
Sessions issued a rare statement in rebuke of Trump’s comments on Fox News that said he “took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the president’s agenda.”
“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,” Sessions added at the time.
Trump 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.
Sessions decided to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation in March 2017 after consulting with Justice Department officials due to two previously undisclosed meetings he had with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016.
Trump then reportedly asked Sessions to reverse his decision at a dinner at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in March shortly after Sessions made his decision, but the attorney general refused.
In May 2017, after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller.
It was widely expected that Sessions would leave his position after the 2018 midterm elections, regardless of whether they favored Republicans or Democrats.
Sessions, 71, was confirmed in February 2017 with a 52-47 vote in the Senate. Before that, he served in the Senate, beginning with his election in 1996 and subsequent re-elections in 2002, 2008, and 2014.
Since taking over the Justice Department, Sessions has been instrumental in carrying out many of the promises Trump made on the campaign trail, including on immigration and border security, violent crime, and religious liberty.
The pecking order at the Justice Department and as it pertains to the special counsel now becomes a bit confusing.
The acting attorney general must be someone who is at the same clearance level as the attorney general. That person would then assume control of Mueller’s investigation. However, Sessions replacement cannot be Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Rosenstein is currently acting attorney general as it pertains to Mueller’s investigation and thus cannot serve in both capacities. Should Rosenstein become acting attorney general, Solicitor General Noel Francisco would take over Mueller’s investigation.