Top Democrats Promise to Investigate Trump’s Ouster of Sessions

“Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation?”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on February 27.Drew Angerer/Getty

The Democrat set to take control of the House Judiciary Committee pledged Wednesday to scrutinize President Donald Trump’s ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and promotion of Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, to acting attorney general.

“Americans must have answers immediately as to the reasoning behind removing Jeff Sessions from Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat slated to become chairman of the committee, tweeted Wednesday. “Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation? We will be holding people accountable.”

Nadler will take over the committee in January after Democrats won control of the House in Tuesday’s midterm elections. Republicans retain the committee chairmanship until then.

In a press release, Nadler said that Democrats on the committee were “immediately issuing multiple letters to key officials demanding that they preserve all relevant documents related to this action to make sure that the investigation and any evidence remains safe from improper interference or destruction.” Nadler also issued a warning: “Donald Trump may think he has the power to hire and fire whomever he pleases, but he cannot take such action if it is determined that it is for the purposes of subverting the rule of law and obstructing justice. If he abuses his office in such a fashion, then there will be consequences.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who’s set to take over the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also issued a statement in which he promised that Democrats would investigate Sessions’ firing. “President Trump waited until just hours after the midterm elections to make this move, which had been rumored for months,” he said. “Congress must now investigate the real reason for this termination…and ensure that the Department of Justice safeguards the integrity of the Mueller investigation.”

Nadler, Cummings, and other Democrats called for Whitaker to recuse himself from the special counsel probe due to his past criticism of the investigation. “The Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, should continue to oversee the investigation unhindered, and no other changes to the supervisory structure of the investigation should be made,” Nadler said.

Trump’s announcement caused confusion over who will oversee Mueller’s investigation, with some analysts asserting that Rosenstein, to whom Mueller has reported due to Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe, would remain in charge. But Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores indicated that Whitaker would take over the job. 

“The Acting Attorney General is in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice,” she said in an email.