Critic of Mueller Investigation Replaces Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General
After an eventful midterm election, Democrats have enough seats in the house for supermajority votes, which means that Americans will be seeing more progressive bills being considered in 2019 and 2020. Also, with the House and Senate being skewed in such a way, many items on the Trump administration’s agenda will have a much harder time coming to fruition.
House representative seats aren’t the only positions trading hands. On November 7th, Jeff Sessions gave up his title of Attorney General of the United States at the behest of President Trump.
Serving first as United States Senator from Alabama from 1997 to 2017, Jeff Sessions supported and was highly involved in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. His loyalty was recognized after Trump won the presidency, Sessions was appointed the position of attorney general in 2017 at a critical moment in the new presidency. Amid allegations of Russian collusion in his 2016 campaign, Trump needed an attorney general he could trust to lead a thorough investigation.
Throughout the first year of Trump’s presidency, Sessions recused himself from any involvement with the Justice Department investigation led by special council member Robert Mueller. Because of his close involvement with Trump’s campaign, Sessions considered his involvement in such a case to be a conflict of interest, handing over most of the investigation to Mueller to prevent it from being “improperly influenced by political considerations.”
For several months, Trump bashed Sessions’s recusal, referring to him as “weak” and “disgraceful” for the passive role he was playing in the investigation. In June of 2017, Sessions announced he would be leaving his appointment, waiting until November 7th of this year to avoid disrupting midterm elections.
Now, Trump plans to appoint Matthew Whitaker, a former federal prosecutor from Iowa who has been highly critical of the Mueller investigation since it began. He has phrased on CNN’s website his disapproval of the way this case is being handled, and has drawn considerable attention from the Trump administration.
This new attorney general has been appointed under the assumption that his role in the Russian collusion investigation will not be a passive one. Trump seems hopeful that Whitaker’s distaste for the memo-passing and recusing during Sessions’s appointment will translate into an active position in pushing this investigation towards its end.
While his appointment seems imminent, Whitaker has gained his own harsh critics. The primary claim that he is unfit to hold this office is due to his ties to a witness in Mueller’s inquiry, Sam Clovis.
Jeff Sessions’s passive stance as attorney general was reactive to the ongoing investigation surrounding president Trump’s involvement with the Russian government during his campaign. Since Sessions was directly involved with this campaign, it is understandable that he would refrain from directly influencing the investigation, instead letting deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein appoint Robert Mueller to the case.
Now that Trump is appointing someone with significantly less involvement with this pivotal investigation, it is possible that Whitaker might try to take more direct action as attorney general. With his connections to an involved witness, however, the constitutionality of his actions will be under powerful scrutiny all over the country.
Story by Caleb Barber