How Donald Trump's relationship with Jeff Sessions soured
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
The firing of Jeff Sessions was not a case of 'if' - but 'when'. The death knell had been ringing for some time with Donald Trump spending the last year attacking his attorney general. And finally, the reality television president participated in his favourite hobby in the White House - pointing his finger at his staff, and saying "you're fired".
The axe, that seemed to be swinging for some time, fell a day after the midterm elections. According to CNN, Sessions received the request to resign from White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, and not the President, on Wednesday morning. Sessions made it clear in his 'resignation' letter that he was being forced out of the Department of Justice. "Dear Mr. President," he wrote, "At your request, I am submitting my resignation." He thanked the president for the opportunity, adding: "Most importantly, in my time as attorney general, we have restored and upheld the rule of law."
Trump tweeted: "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. He will serve our Country well.
"We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date."
Sessions was one of Trump's earliest supporters. While it may seem unbelievable, there was once a time when Trump could not stop heaping praise on Sessions.
The president once called the attorney general a "world-class legal mind", and announced his appointment "with great pride" in February last year. "He's a man of integrity, a man of principle, and a man of total, utter resolve," Trump declared.
He added: “Jeff understands that the job of attorney general is to serve and protect the people of the United States, and that is exactly what he will do, and do better than anybody else can. He’s trained better for it than anybody else.”
During the presidential election, he even retweeted a supporter's request for Trump to select the former Alabama senator as his running mate, commenting that he is a "great guy".
And then the relationship started to turn sour. The man of integrity, as Trump once called him, then was attacked as "very weak" and "disgraceful". The president started to publicly slam his attorney general for not investigating Hillary Clinton, despite Trump previously saying he was not going to pursue an investigation into how she mishandled official emails.
In July 2017, Trump told the New York Times that he would not have hired Sessions to lead the Department of Justice if he knew he would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. That responsibility fell to the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.
He has repeated that line of attack again and again. In June, he quoted Rep. Trey Gowdy from his appearance on CBS News. The Republican said: “I think what the president is doing is expressing frustration that Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions should have shared these reasons for recusal before he took the job, not afterward.
“If I were the president and I picked someone to be the country’s chief law enforcement officer, and they told me later, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m not going to be able to participate on the most important case in the office,’ I would be frustrated too.
“There are lots of really good lawyers in the country. He could have picked someone else.”
After quoting the remarks, the president added this comment: "And I wish I did!"
Trump later quoted Joseph diGenova, a former US attorney for the District of Columbia, known for his deep state conspiracies, who said: “The recusal of Jeff Sessions was an unforced betrayal of the President of the United States."
The firing of Jeff Sessions had been a long time coming, especially after a year of Donald Trump belittling and attacking his attorney general. The inevitable became a reality on Wednesday morning, and the sour episode finally ended. But there are many consequences to Sessions' departure from the Department of Justice - one controversy may have finished, but others are just beginning.