President Donald Trump fired attorney general Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, a day after he was handed a mixed mid-term verdict, which he sought to spin as a victory, despite Republicans losing the House of Representatives, one of the two chambers of US Congress, and several governorships.
The president also warned Democrats, who won the House handily, against launching investigations against him and his presidency, as some of them have indicated they will, saying at a White House news conference he will retaliate with his own probes, which, he added, could lead to a “warlike” situation.
Sessions’s firing, which was long in the making and was expected after the mid-terms, may have set up the President’s first confrontation with the new House that he was referring.
Many Democrats explicitly warned after the announcement that the dismissal should not become the first step towards shutting down special counsel Robert Muller’s Russia meddling probe that the President has called a “witch-hunt”.
A key reason for their alarm was the man the President picked to succeed Sessions in an interim capacity, Mathew Whitaker, the former attorney general’s chief of staff, and not the official number two, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who instituted the special counsel probe.
Whitaker, on the other hand, is a known sceptic and critic of the investigation and has suggested choking it out of business by squeezing its budget.“It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by @realDonaldTrump to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation,” tweeted Nancy Pelosi, the senior-most Democrat in the outgoing House who expects to head the new House as Speaker, a position that is second in line to the presidency (the first is the vice-president).
Other Democrats called on Whitaker to recuse himself from the probe given his public opposition to it, which will be a hard ask for him to deliver given that his criticism of the probe may have been the reason who he got the job.