Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has long been openly criticized by Donald Trump for his alleged role in creating the “witch hunt” Mueller-Russia investigation, has resigned at Trump’s request. (CNN reports that White House chief of staff John Kelly informed Sessions of Trump’s wishes earlier Wednesday.) Sessions’ interim replacement—Trump says a permanent replacement will be nominated later—is his chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker.*
Before he joined the administration, Whitaker—who has worked as a federal prosecutor in Iowa and as a right-wing legal activist who believed Hillary Clinton should have been indicted—wrote a CNN column called “Mueller’s Investigation of Trump Is Going Too Far” criticizing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s handling of the case. (The column specifically argued that Mueller had exceeded the scope of his mandate by looking into Trump’s finances.) Whitaker also said on CNN that an interim attorney general could starve the Mueller investigation by reducing its budget. Whitaker is now Rosenstein’s boss and may take over supervision of Mueller, though given that Sessions’ potential post-midterms departure had been widely discussed, it’s possible that Mueller has already wrapped up the bulk of his work.
Republican senators who had previously said they would oppose Sessions’ removal appear to be on board with the move, while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer immediately suggested that Whitaker’s past statements about Mueller indicate that he should recuse himself from Mueller-related decisions. (Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from Russia-investigation oversight because of his own Russia-related 2016 campaign activity is, according to Trump, the reason Mueller’s “witch hunt” is still ongoing.)
This post has been updated with new information.
Correction, 3:10 p.m.: This post initially misidentified Matthew Whitaker as Matthew Chambers.