Sessions resigns as U.S. Attorney General

In this July 13, 2018 photo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers remarks in Portland, Maine. President Donald Trump is escalating his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, suggesting the embattled official should have intervened in investigations of two GOP congressmen to help Republicans in the midterms. Trump tweeted Monday that “investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department.” (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned from office Wednesday.

Sessions began his resignation letter to President Trump by stating he was submitting the resignation at Trump’s request.

His chief of staff, Matt Whitaker, will become acting attorney general.

The attorney general had endured more than a year of stinging and personal criticism from Trump over his recusal from the investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Trump blamed the decision for opening the door to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who took over the Russia investigation and began examining whether Trump’s hectoring of Sessions was part of a broader effort to obstruct justice.

A couple of hours prior to Trump announcing the departure of Sessions on Twitter, former U.S. Sen. Luther Strange was also on Twitter — where he tweeted “Jeff Sessions for Senate in 2020!”

It’s not clear at the time of his tweet if Strange knew Sessions had been asked to resign.

Strange inherited Sessions’ Senate seat after his appointment as U.S. Attorney General. He later lost a Republican primary race against Roy Moore, who went on to be defeated by Democrat Doug Jones.

Subsequently, it was announced that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would no longer oversee the Mueller investigation. Mueller will now answer to Whitaker, who will oversee the investigation.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby released a statement praising U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions following his resignation:

 “Thank you to my good friend, Jeff Sessions, for over 40 years of noble service to Alabama and our country. Jeff was a respected colleague of mine in the Senate for two decades and represented our nation with honor as the U.S. Attorney General. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Congressman Mo Brooks also issued a statement on Sessions’ resignation.

 “Jeff Sessions honorably and ably served as a United States Attorney, Alabama Attorney General, United States Senator, and U.S. Attorney General.  Throughout his long career of public service, Jeff’s deep love of country was evident in his unwavering devotion to upholding America’s foundational principles as enshrined in our Constitution. He served with integrity and dignity. I’m proud to have worked alongside him as both a prosecutor in Alabama and member of Congress. I have been fortunate to know Jeff Sessions for a quarter of a century. As an elected official, Jeff Sessions never wavered in his fierce defense of the Rule of Law and America’s sovereign right to defend and secure its own borders. Jeff Sessions has made Alabama proud. I wish him the best as he embarks on his next journey.”

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones called the resignation a “firing” in a statement and said he was concerned Trump would use the opportunity to exert control over the Mueller investigation.

“For nearly two years, the President has done a disservice to the American people by leveling unfair attacks against our law enforcement agencies. He has also diminished the importance of the legitimate investigation of Russian election interference by labeling it a ‘witch hunt.’ Now, with the firing of Attorney General Sessions today, I am concerned that he will use this opportunity to exert control over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. It is even more vital now that Congress takes action to protect the investigation. I remain deeply concerned about the targeted and well-funded efforts by Russia to undermine our democracy and influence our elections, particularly those yet to come.”

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement that Sessions was a vital partner to state attorneys general.

“During his time as U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions has been the standard-bearer for upholding the rule of law and fighting every day to make America safer. He has been a vital partner to state attorneys general, and to me personally, in dealing with violent crime and in strengthening our efforts to combat America’s opioid crisis. While his style was to work quietly behind the scenes, he made a powerful positive difference in rebuilding the confidence of prosecutors and law enforcement personnel across the nation—not just as U.S. Attorney General, but also as U.S. Senator and Alabama Attorney General. My staff and I will greatly miss Jeff’s leadership at the Department of Justice and we wish him all the best.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)