Sessions Resigns and What Might Be Next

One day after the November midterm elections that saw Democrats taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Republicans maintaining or slightly strengthening their hold on the U.S. Senate, the most momentous news in the federal law enforcement community is no doubt the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The move reportedly came at the request of President Donald Trump, with whom Sessions has had an embattled relationship. Relations between the two soured early in the administration, largely hinging on Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from ongoing investigations into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In his resignation letter, the full text of which is available here, Sessions wrote, “At your request, I am submitting my resignation. Since the day I was honored to be sworn in as Attorney General of the United States, I came to work at the Department of Justice every day determined to do my duty and serve my country. I have done so to the best of my ability, working to support the fundamental legal processes that are the foundation of justice.”

Sessions heralded a number of achievements he claims during his tenure, and expressed thanks to federal law enforcement officers, suggesting that his tenure as Attorney General was marked by restoring and upholding “the rule of law—a glorious tradition that each of us has a responsibility to safeguard” having operated “with integrity” as the agency “aggressively advanced the policy agenda of this administration.”

The news, though in some senses unsurprising, is nonetheless momentous and sent ripples across D.C., with NPR providing a rundown of some of the reactions.

At The Atlantic, Natasha Bertrand writes that the decision may prove to be politically costly, suggesting that, “Without the administration’s protection, Sessions may now find himself both more vulnerable and more inclined to cooperate with Mueller, who has been investigating a period last summer when Trump privately discussed firing Sessions and attacked him in a series of tweets.”

Speculating as to who might replace Sessions, CNN’s Eli Watkins writes that “GOP Senate control will likely smooth the path for Trump to replace Sessions with a preferred name,” suggesting that possible replacements could include Solicitor General Noel Francisco, Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy, who is leaving office, or Sessions Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker, who will serve as acting attorney general until a final decision is made.

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