Jeff Sessions Out as Attorney General

Matthew Whitaker becomes acting attorney general and will assume oversight of the Russia investigation.

Mother Jones illustration

After months of enduring extraordinary attacks in both public and private from President Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions has, at the president’s request, stepped down as attorney general. The move to force out Sessions after the midterm elections had been widely expected, but the timing of the announcement—just one day after the elections—came as a surprise.

Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker will take over as acting attorney general.

The president has long taken issue with Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation after it was revealed that he had not been forthcoming about his own communications with Russian officials. Trump frequently aired his frustrations with Sessions on Twitter and in public appearances. In a stunning admission last July, Trump told the New York Times that he never would have appointed Sessions as attorney general if he had known he would eventually recuse himself from the ongoing Russia investigation.

With Sessions out, Whitaker will assume control of the investigation, according to the Justice Department. Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for the department, told Mother Jones, “The Acting Attorney General is in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice.”

“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.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is known to be looking into Sessions’ own meetings with Russians while he was a Trump campaign surrogate, and the role he played overseeing the campaign’s foreign policy and contacts.

Trump’s aggressive attacks left many wondering why the president chose to keep Sessions in the role for so long, instead preferring to undermine him and the department he led.

Dan Friedman contributed reporting to this story.

Image credit: Ting Shen/Xinhua/ZUMA; Starmax/Newscom/ZUMA


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Give a Year of the Truth

at our special holiday rate

just $12

Order Now

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.