Well, if you were wondering how long it would take for Trump to get rid of Jeff Sessions following the midterms, the answer turns out to be less than 24 hours.
Sessions tendered his resignation on Wednesday afternoon, hours after John Kelly informed the (now former) Attorney General that Trump wanted him to vacate his post.
Trump of course blames Sessions for everything under the sun, and generally traces his legal woes directly to Sessions’ decision to recuse himself.
This has been a long time coming. Sessions has endured merciless criticism emanating from the Oval Office over the past year, culminating in a series of outlandish attacks in August and September.
August brought a veritable torrent of bad legal news for the White House. Paul Manafort was convicted, Michael Cohen flipped and implicated the President in open court, details of Don McGahn’s cooperation with Robert Mueller surfaced and longtime Trump Organization money man Allen Weisselberg was granted immunity by federal prosecutors.
As the bad news poured in, Trump ratcheted up his attacks on Sessions, insisting the Attorney General launch investigations into a long list of political rivals, questioning the AG’s integrity on national television and berating the former Senator on Twitter. For his part, Sessions fired back in a rare public statement asserting DoJ independence.
On September 3, Trump went so far as to demand that Sessions not indict Republicans even when presented with overwhelming evidence of criminal activity, a move that drew sharp criticism from both sides of the aisle.
Then, on September 19, Trump told The Hill that he “doesn’t have an Attorney General”. Here’s the excerpt from an interview conducted less than two months ago:
I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad. I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it. And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers. Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.
Fast forward to Wednesday and now Trump really doesn’t “have an Attorney General” – or at least not a permanent one.
“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”, Trump said on Wednesday afternoon, adding that “he will serve our Country well.” Whitaker will be sworn in by the end of the day.
A permanent replacement will be found “at a later date”, apparently.
Whitaker will take command of the Robert Mueller probe, although Rod Rosenstein will remain in his position as deputy AG.
For his part, Chuck Schumer said he finds the timing “very suspect”.