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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/8/18

Trump Fires AG Sessions, Installs New Loyalist Whitaker to Oversee Mueller Probe

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President Donald Trump has fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, replacing him with a Trump loyalist who has called special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation a "witch hunt." Matthew Whitaker, formerly Jeff Sessions's chief of staff, will now take charge of the Russia inquiry, prompting questions about the future of the Russia investigation and whether Trump will target Robert Mueller next. Some experts are raising questions about the legality of putting Whitaker in charge rather than Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing the Russia probe.

The ACLU wrote in a statement, "Jeff Sessions was the worst attorney general in modern American history. Period. But the dismissal of the nation's top law enforcement official shouldn't be based on political motives." We speak with David Cole, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union and professor of law and public policy at Georgetown University Law Center. His most recent book is "Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: President Donald Trump has fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, replacing him with a Trump loyalist who has called special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation a "witch hunt." Matthew Whitaker, formerly Jeff Sessions' chief of staff, will now take charge of the Russia inquiry. Trump announced the news on Twitter just hours after the midterm elections, prompting questions about the future of the Russia investigation and whether Trump will target Robert Mueller next.

Some experts are raising questions about the legality of putting Whitaker in charge rather than the department's number two, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing the Russia probe. In a statement, the ACLU said, quote, "Jeff Sessions was the worst attorney general in modern American history. Period. But the dismissal of the nation's top law enforcement official shouldn't be based on political motives," end-quote.

Trump has repeatedly and openly attacked Sessions for recusing himself from the Mueller investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. This is Trump on Fox & Friends earlier this year.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn't have done -- or he should have told me. Even my enemies say that "Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself, and then you wouldn't have put him in." He took the job, and then he said, "I'm going to recuse myself." I said, "What kind of a man is this?"

AMY GOODMAN: In 2016, Matthew Whitaker wrote an op-ed for USA Today in which he wrote he would have indicted Hillary Clinton, saying, quote, "FBI director's judgment was that 'no reasonable prosecutor' would bring the case. I disagree," he wrote.

Whitaker is also a close friend and former campaign chair for Sam Clovis, when Clovis ran for public office in Iowa in 2014. Clovis, who was the 2016 Trump campaign national co-chair, revealed earlier this year that he had been interviewed by Mueller and testified for the Mueller grand jury.

In an interview with CNN last year -- Whitaker was a CNN commentator -- he speculated about Sessions being replaced and funding to the Mueller investigation being withdrawn. Whitaker was then the executive director of the Foundation of Accountability and Civic Trust, an organization with ties to the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

MATTHEW WHITAKER: So I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment, and that attorney general doesn't fire Robert Mueller, but he just reduces the budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.

AMY GOODMAN: Democrats, who won control the House in the midterms, have vowed to protect the Mueller investigation. Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer both called for Whitaker's recusal from the Mueller probe.

For more on the implications of Sessions' departure, we're joined in New York by two guests.

David Cole is the national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, professor of law and public policy at Georgetown University Law Center. His most recent book, Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law. His piece on Sessions, out earlier this year in The New York Review of Books, is headlined "Trump's Inquisitor."

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