US President Donald Trump has not waited long: No 24 hours after the end of the Midterms, he fired Justice Secretary Jeff Sessions. The move is considered an anticipated frontal attack on Russia’s investigation against him. Trump now put his confidant Matthew Whitaker on the post, who has already publicly considered how to slow down special investigator Robert Mueller.
Mueller’s FBI team investigates whether there were any collusion between Moscow and Trump’s electoral camp in the presumed Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election. For Trump, the investigation is extremely unpleasant. He regularly scourges her as a „witch hunt“.
Sessions had missed it in connection with the investigations with Trump. As chief prosecutor Sessions would have been responsible for the supervision of the Mueller investigation. Because of his own bias, he had given this role but to his deputy Rod Rosenstein.
The president would have liked his Justice Minister to protect him from the investigations: in the past, Trump Sessions even pushed on Twitter to stop the investigation, and repeatedly attacked the Minister in public. For a long time, therefore, the minister was considered a replacement candidate – and it was expected that Trump will dismiss him after the congressional election.
With the former chief of staff Whitaker Trump now temporarily installed a Minister of Justice, which in the past has been critical of the scope of the Russia investigation – the investigations that he now has the supervision.
In a post for the CNN channel, Whitaker wrote last year that it would go too far if Mueller took a closer look at the finances of Trump’s family. If that happens, „it would raise serious concerns that the investigator’s investigation is a sheer witch hunt,“ he said. Trump has repeatedly referred to the investigation as a „witch hunt“.
Whitaker also thought aloud on CNN about how to put an end to Mueller’s investigation. He brought into play a scenario in which Trump appoints a provisional Minister of Justice, which closes the special investigator’s budget so that the investigation comes to a standstill. When he said that, he was not yet working for the government. Only two months later he became Sessions‘ chief of staff.
What does the congress do?
How Whitaker will behave now is unclear. It is also not clear how long he will manage the ministry at all. Trump has announced that he intends to announce the actual successor to sessions „at a later date“.
„This is a frontal assault on the Mueller investigation,“ wrote legal expert Susan Hennessey of the renowned Brookings Institute on Twitter. Trump saw an opportunity and used it. Now the question is whether Congress is doing something.
Deputy Rosenstein passed over
Usually, in the event of dismissal or resignation, the deputy temporarily moves to the post of Minister. Rosenstein, who was previously in charge of the investigation, was also out of favor with Trump in the meantime. He said at a Senate hearing that a special investigator can not be fired without good reason and that he does not see such a reason given. A few weeks ago it was already said, Rosenstein was also fired, Trump then denied that.
The Democrats – but also some Republicans – the alarm bells ringing: „No one is above the law,“ said Democratic Senator Mark Warner. Any attempt to interfere with the work of the Special Investigator would be a „gross abuse of power by the President.“
Party House number two, Steny Hoyer, emphasized that the US Congress must act bipartisan to protect Mueller’s investigation. The democratic