Alabama’s Jeff Sessions out as U.S. attorney general

Published 3:00 am Thursday, November 8, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushed out Wednesday as the country’s chief law enforcement officer after enduring more than a year of blistering and personal attacks from President Donald Trump over his recusal from the Russia investigation.

Sessions told the president in a one-page letter that he was submitting his resignation “at your request.”

The resignation was the culmination of a toxic relationship that frayed just weeks into the attorney general’s tumultuous tenure, when he stepped aside from the Mueller investigation.

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Donna Horn, president of the Pike County Republican Party, said the move is disappointing for Alabama Republicans and could even have an influence on Trump’s level of support in 2020.

“Alabama was strong for President Trump and has stayed strong for President Trump,” Horn said. “In my opinion, you might see some of that waver slightly. I think that should President Trump be the only Republican to run, I don’t see any change at all in his support. Should he be challenged, you might see a difference depending on who challenges him. I think what Jeff Sessions does next and who he supports in the next general election will have a great effect on it.”

The relentless attacks on Sessions came even though the Alabama Republican was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump and despite the fact that his crime-fighting agenda and priorities — particularly his hawkish immigration enforcement policies — largely mirrored the president’s.

But the relationship was irreparably damaged in March 2017 when Sessions, acknowledging previously undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador and citing his work as a campaign aide, recused himself from the Russia investigation.

The decision infuriated Trump, who repeatedly lamented that he would have never selected Sessions if he had known the attorney general would recuse. The recusal left the investigation in the hands of Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel two months later after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey.

The rift lingered for the duration of Sessions’ tenure, and the attorney general, despite praising the president’s agenda and hewing to his priorities, never managed to return to Trump’s good graces.

When Trump first began attacking Sessions over the recusal, Horn defended Sessions. She said she still believes Sessions made the right decision to step away from the investigation.

Now that Sessions has left his seat as the nation’s top law enforcement official, Horn said she hopes he continues to serve politically in some form or fashion.

“I still say that Jeff Sessions is one of the finest people I ever had the pleasure of meeting,” Horn said “He knows the constitution and supports the constitution. My only hope is that he is not retiring … he has done so much for Alabama and the United States hope that continues.”

There are several ways Sessions could return to politics in service of Alabama citizens, Horn said.

“I see several options for Jeff Sessions,” Horn said. “Sen. Richard Shelby is retiring. Of course Republicans would like to take the seat Sessions formerly held back from Doug Jones, so I see either of those seats as a viable place for him if he wants to stay in Washington.  There are certainly offices in Alabama he is well-suited for also.”

Trump announced in a tweet that he was naming Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker, a former United States attorney from Iowa, as acting attorney general. Whitaker has criticized special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between the president’s Republican campaign and Russia.