Jeff Sessions submitted his resignation as attorney general on Wednesday, in a decision he made clear was at the “request” of President Trump.
Trump said that Matthew G. Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff, will replace Sessions for now.
The announcement came a day after the midterm elections, a time when presidents frequently make major Cabinet changes.
Sessions—who was famously deemed to be too racist to become a federal judge in the 1980s but was easily confirmed by a Republican Senate in 2017—distinguished himself for, among other things, his department’s anti-immigrant ferocity, eagerness to weaken civil rights protections, fervent support of police, and hard-right stance on LGBTQ issues.
But he became irrevocably tarnished in Trump’s eyes after his decision to recuse himself in early 2017 from overseeing the investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election. His deputy, Rod Rosenstein, appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to lead the probe, which has hounded Trump ever since. It is unclear what powers Sessions’ successor will have over the Mueller investigation.
The conventional wisdom was that Republican senators were protecting Sessions from Trump’s wrath. After the midterm results, though—which saw the GOP dramatically increase its Senate ranks, thanks in part to Trump’s unusually energetic campaigning—that protection seems to have vanished.
Update, 3:28 p.m. ET: Well, there ya go. One presumes that Trump will want to have a “discussion” with Whitaker about how exactly he is overseeing the Mueller investigation.
Update, 3:31 p.m. ET: Whitaker wrote a 2017 op-ed about the Mueller probe. The title? “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far.” Now he’s in charge of the investigation.