United States President Donald Trump caused more than just a few eyebrows to raise on Wednesday when he forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. The move by the president caused Democratic leaders to vocally express their concerns for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into suspected interference by Russia into the 2016 presidential election.
Matthew Whitaker, the former chief of staff for Sessions, was appointed by the president as interim Attorney General. The appointment is allowed as part of the U.S. Vacancies Reform Act. The Act outlines the rules in which positions in the executive branch can be temporarily filled.
The administration confirmed that Whitaker is now in charge of the Mueller investigation. Rod Rosenstein, the current deputy attorney general, was previously in charge of the investigation. This is significant because one aspect of the investigation is to determine if there was collusion between Trump and Russia. The president denies this allegation.
One reason Democratic Party members are in an uproar is the public views Whitaker has already expressed regarding the Mueller investigation. Whitaker wrote a piece for CNN that expressed his disdain for the investigation. The title of the piece referenced his belief that Mueller was ‘going too far.’ The foundation for this claim by Whitaker was the belief that Mueller should not be allowed to investigate the finances of President Trump.
The rhetoric from Democrats was strong in response to the news of Whitaker’s increased involvement with the Mueller investigation. Chuck Schumer, Senate Democratic Leader says that Whitaker should not be allowed to oversee the investigation and asked that the new Attorney General recuse himself. Representative Jerrold Nadler will be taking over as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in January. Nadler says the committee will investigate the firing of Jeff Sessions when he assumes leadership.
Democrats cite government ethics regulations that require federal employees to recuse themselves from matters in which their impartiality is in question. This action was taken by Sessions in March 2017. He recused himself from the investigation due to a similar rule that prohibits federal officials to oversee investigations of people or issues with which they have political or personal affiliations.
Rosenstein took over after the Sessions recusal. The first decision made by Rosenstein in the matter was to hire Robert Mueller. The hiring was necessary to replace former special counsel and one-time Director of the FBI James Comey. Trump fired Comey in May 2017.