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After Sessions, keep Rosenstein in charge of Russia probe

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference on Oct. 26. Credit: AP / Alex Brandon

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions had a bull’s-eye on his back from the start. President Donald Trump wanted him to be “his” attorney general and not the independent chief law enforcement officer of the nation.

That’s why Wednesday’s “resignation” of Sessions is no surprise. To Trump, Sessions committed the unpardonable act of being disloyal and suffered months of being shamed by the president.

Sessions, a former U.S. attorney and senator from Alabama, did the right thing by recusing himself from the FBI investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election because he had worked on Trump’s campaign. As a result, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein took over the Russia probe, and when Trump fired FBI chief James Comey, it was Rosenstein who appointed Robert Mueller to take over as a special counsel.

The Mueller team has relentlessly pursued the case, making Trump angrier at Sessions, who otherwise served him faithfully, aggressively pursuing a conservative legal agenda that included the harsh family-separation policy at the border, narrowing civil rights, expanding the role of religion in government and lifting oversight of local police departments.

Actually running the Department of Justice, Sessions was probably one of the most effective members of Trump’s Cabinet in carrying out his agenda.

Now just after a midterm election that saw control of the House of Representatives switch to Democrats, and as Donald Trump Jr. tells friends he expects to be criminally charged by Mueller, Trump is looking for a new attorney general. Anyone who would block Mueller from finishing should be rejected by the Senate.

Until Trump nominates a replacement for Sessions, Matthew F. Whitaker — Sessions’ chief of staff, and someone who spoke out against Mueller before he joined the administration — is in charge of the Mueller probe.

That’s a mistake, Whitaker must recuse himself immediately and allow Rosenstein to continue his oversight until Trump’s replacement for Sessions is confirmed by the Senate. — The editorial board


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