Panic over Mueller's fate after Trump sacks AG Jeff Sessions

Panic over Mueller's fate after Trump sacks AG Jeff Sessions

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating potential collusion between Russian operatives and Trump associates during the 2016 presidential campaign and transition.

President Trump's forcing out of Jeff Sessions has cast doubt on the future of Robert Mueller's investigation-especially since Sessions' replacement, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, has always been a critic of the probe.

That's because Sessions had recused himself, calling it inappropriate that he lead an inquiry into Trump's 2016 presidential campaign of which he was a part.

Trump has made clear that he believes he has the power to fire Mueller altogether, through the leadership of the Justice Department or outside it.

When the Democrats take over the House, they are expected to launch numerous probes of Trump, his business interests and his administrations. He also fired one of the president's primary antagonists, former Federal Bureau of Investigation deputy director Andrew McCabe, just before he was to have retired - a move Trump hailed as a "great day for democracy".

Hence, the timing of what Trump tweeted on Wednesday struck many as conspicuous.

On Thursday morning, New York Congressman Jerry Nadler-who will come January chair the House Judiciary Committee-described the situation as a "constitutionally perilous moment for our country", and promised consequences if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were to be taken off the investigation. Cox was eventually fired by the USA solicitor general. "A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date".

Sessions told the president in a one-page letter that he was submitting his resignation "at your request". "We have operated with integrity and have lawfully and aggressively advanced the policy agenda of this administration".

"Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russian Federation 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing", Whitaker wrote in an op-ed a year ago before he came to work for the government.

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Democrats see this latest move as an attempt to do just that.

Congressional Democrats, concerned about protecting Mueller, called on Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation in its final but potentially explosive stages.

Now, though, Sessions is gone and the Justice Department says that means Whitaker's purview includes the special counsel's investigation.

"We are immediately issuing multiple letters to key officials demanding that they preserve all relevant documents related to this action to make sure that the investigation and any evidence remains safe from improper interference or destruction", Nadler said.

Other Democratic congressional leaders, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner issued almost identical tweets urging Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation, citing his vocal criticism of the probe.

The decision infuriated Trump, who repeatedly lamented that he would have never selected Sessions if he had known the attorney general would recuse. "He was an egregious violator of civil rights and civil liberties", the ACLU statement said.

"It's very significant because Whitaker's position on indictments or future indictments may be different than Rosenstein's, and Rosenstein had given Mueller a broad mandate to pursue various crimes", said Washington criminal defense lawyer Jeffrey Jacobovitz.

Democrats raised concerns about Sessions' acting replacement, Matthew Whitaker, who now oversees Mueller and once argued Mueller's probe was going too far.

Trump forced the resignation of Sessions on Wednesday, a day after elections in which his fellow Republicans lost control of the House but increased their majority in the U.S. Senate.

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