Panic over Mueller's fate after Trump sacks AG Jeff Sessions

U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker speaks during a news conference Wednesday Dec. 20 2006 in Des Moines Iowa. The federal government has charged 23 illegal aliens taken into custody last week at a raid at a Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in Marshalltown I

U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker speaks during a news conference Wednesday Dec. 20 2006 in Des Moines Iowa. The federal government has charged 23 illegal aliens taken into custody last week at a raid at a Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in Marshalltown I

In an opinion piece for CNN.com in July 2017, two months after Mueller's appointment, Whitaker wrote that he agreed with Trump that investigating the president's finances fell outside Mueller's mandate, and he urged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to limit the special counsel's authority.

Now, though, Sessions is gone and the Justice Department says that means Whitaker's purview includes the special counsel's investigation.

"Sessions did not do the thing he could have done to better protect Rosenstein, and through Rosenstein, the Mueller investigation", Vladeck said.

As for the reports on Trump, if Whitaker suppresses them, the House Judiciary Committee could subpoena them and make them public.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called it a "blatant attempt" to undermine the Russian Federation probe, while Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer tweeted that "clearly, the president has something to hide".

The "Saturday Night Massacre" was one of the most dramatic events in the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Donald Trump has installed a crony to oversee the special counsel's Trump-Russia investigation, crossing a red line set to protect the investigation.

"We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States".

If that stands, there are other ways that Trump and a newly simpatico attorney general could complicate Mueller's work. Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Reuters on Tuesday that he assumed it was "not going to affect" the Mueller investigation.

Asked if that would be to dwindle the special counsel's resources, Whitaker responded, "Right".

The latest indication of the fury came Wednesday when he forced out his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, whose recusal opened the door to Mueller's appointment.

And, if nothing else, having an attorney general who isn't recused from Mueller's work might give the White House a clearer look inside it.

In attacks delivered on Twitter, in person and in interviews, Trump called Sessions weak and beleaguered, complained that he wasn't more aggressively pursuing allegations of corruption against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and called it "disgraceful" that Sessions wasn't more serious in scrutinizing the origins of the Russian Federation investigation for possible law enforcement bias - even though the attorney general did ask the Justice Department's inspector general to look into those claims.

Both Whitaker and Clovis are rooted in Iowa politics, and both ran for the 2014 Republican Senate nomination.

Some Democrats also considered Sessions too eager to do Trump's bidding and overly receptive to his grievances. "He has no reason to recuse himself", Malcolm told VOA.

Never in modern history has a president attacked a Cabinet member as frequently and harshly in public as Trump did Sessions, 71, who had been one of the first members of Congress to back his presidential campaign in 2015.

His agenda unsettled liberals who said that Sessions' focus on tough prosecutions marked a return to failed drug war tactics that unduly hurt minorities and the poor, and that his rollbacks of protections for gay and transgender people amount to discrimination. He appointed Mueller in May 2017 as the Justice Department's special counsel to take control of the FBI's Russian Federation probe after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

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