U.S.

Why Did Jeff Sessions Resign? Six Times President Donald Trump Clashed with the Attorney General

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday afternoon that Jeff Sessions would no longer serve as U.S. attorney general.

Effectively immediately, Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’s chief of staff, will take the top Department of Justice job until a suitable replacement can be found, Trump said on Twitter.  

“He will serve our Country well. We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well!” the president wrote.

Trump has clashed with Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, on multiple occasions. The president has hinted for months that he was looking to replace the attorney general, and it was widely expected he would be forced out after Tuesday’s midterms.

Sessions was one of the first public supporters of Trump's run for president and was with him from the beginning of his campaign. Once in office, the two sparred over Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Below are some of the most notorious clashes the president had with Sessions.

"I would have picked somebody else."

In a July 2017 New York Times interview, the president sent out his first anti-Sessions test balloon.

“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump said. Sessions, he said, had lied and given “bad answers” at his confirmation hearings.

"Our beleaguered A.G."

By July 24, 2017, the president took his anti-Sessions messaging to Twitter and his Republican base.

“So why aren't the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys [sic] crimes & Russia relations?” he asked, expressing his frustration.

Axios later broke a story that said the president was discussing replacing Sessions with Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer and a former New York City mayor.

What about Andrew McCabe?

Two days later, the president had more questions about Sessions. He asked them publicly to further seed his base's distrust of the attorney general.

“Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation,” he said.

"What kind of a man is this?"

By the end of August 2017, Trump was well into his anti-Sessions rhetoric and launched a full campaign against his attorney general on Fox News.  

“He took the job and then he said, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.’ I said, ‘What kind of a man is this?’” Trump said. “I wanted to stay uninvolved. But when everybody sees what’s going on in the Justice Department—I always put justice now with quotes.”

"Why aren’t Democrats' crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!"

By 2018, the president was openly discussing ending his relationship with Sessions, questioning his political alliances and blaming him for not investigating former President Barack Obama.

“Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation? Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!” he tweeted in February.

"DISGRACEFUL!"

As February came to an end, it was clear that Trump and Sessions weren’t going to mend their relationship anytime soon and that Sessions’s dismissal was now a question of when, not if.

“Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!” the president tweeted.

Throughout the year and a half of attacks, Sessions defended his decision to recuse himself. 

“As long as I am the attorney general,” Sessions said in February, “I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor.” That same month, he told Time, “I don’t think the attorney general can ask everybody else in the department to follow the rules if the attorney general doesn’t follow them.”

When Trump said that he was unable to take control of his department, Sessions said that he took control the “day I was sworn in.”  

There is no question that the Trump-Sessions timeline runs alongside the Mueller-Trump timeline. As special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling closed in on some of the president's men, Trump’s anger grew over his attorney general's recusal and inability to stop the investigation.

On Wednesday, just hours before the president announced that Sessions would be leaving, he attacked the probe.

"It's a disgrace. It should have never been started, because there was no crime," Trump told reporters. "I stay away from it, but you know what I do? I let it just go on. They're wasting a lot of money, but I let it go on because I don't want to do that. It's a disgrace, frankly, and it's an embarrassment to our country."

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