Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned Wednesday and his chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, will act in his stead until a permanent replacement is confirmed, President Trump announced Wednesday.
Sessions tendered his resignation, which came at Trump’s request, in a letter delivered to the president via Chief of Staff John Kelly.
“Dear Mr. President, at your request I am submitting my resignation,” Sessions said in his letter, before recounting the accomplishments of his office in facilitating the president’s “law and order” agenda.
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. He will serve our Country well….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
Trump had reportedly long planned to dismiss Sessions but wanted to wait until after the midterm elections so as not to disrupt Republicans’ campaign messaging.
Sessions became a regular target for Trump’s scorn over the past year, as the president lashed out at him in multiple interviews and on Twitter over his decision to recuse himself from what became Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling. Sessions’s recusal came after the revelation that he misled the FBI about contacts he had with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the 2016 campaign.
“He took the job and then he said, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.’ I said, ‘What kind of a man is this?’” Trump said this year in a Fox News interview. “I wanted to stay uninvolved. But when everybody sees what’s going on in the Justice Department — I always put ‘justice’ now with quotes.”
After keeping his criticisms of Sessions largely private for the first year of his administration, the president began insulting Sessions in personal terms, calling the attorney general “weak” and “disgraceful” on Twitter. The harsh insults prompted speculation that Sessions, one of the president’s earliest supporters, would not last long in his post.
The former Alabama lawmaker remained largely silent in the face of the president’s criticisms but responded forcefully in February when the president once again attacked him for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia probe.
“As long as I am the attorney general,” Sessions said in a statement. “I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor.”
Whitaker, who now oversees the Mueller probe in his role as acting attorney general, wrote an op-ed in August in which he argued Mueller would be exceeding his mandate if he attempted to investigate Trump’s personal finances.