The day after the 2018 midterms, Jeff Sessions has resigned as attorney general. In a letter to President Trump, Sessions told the president that he is stepping down “at your request.” Sessions was the first Republican senator to openly support Trump during his 2016 campaign, but that relationship grew tense after the two took office. Republican Congressman Mo Brooks last year broke with Trump to defend Sessions against the president’s attacks.
In 2017, Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, sparking heavy criticism from Trump. At that time, Republicans spoke out in opposition of Sessions’ firing, with South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham telling reporters, “If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy Hell to pay.”
Wednesday, Graham tweeted that he looks “forward to working with President Trump to find a confirmable, worthy successor” to Sessions. President Trump said Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, will serve as Sessions’ acting replacement. Whitaker will oversee the Russia investigation, which he previously criticized.
I look forward to working with President @realDonaldTrump to find a confirmable, worthy successor so that we can start a new chapter at the Department of Justice and deal with both the opportunities and challenges our nation faces. (2/3)
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) November 7, 2018
Sessions’ departure came as no surprise to his longtime friend and former Senate chief of staff Armand DeKeyser. The relationship between Trump and Sessions had been strained for many months, and DeKeyser says Sessions’ resignation will probably be a relief for both Sessions and the president. In the audio clip above, we spoke with DeKeyser about this and other issues, including what this might mean for the president’s base in Alabama and Sessions’ political future. A statement from Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan on Wednesday was glowing in its summary of Sessions’ career and character, calling him a “true Alabama statesman” and a warrior for Trump’s conservative agenda. “Whether it’s running into him at a restaurant, football game, or a local church service – many view Jeff Sessions as not just an elected official, but also a dear friend,” Lathan said. “In our hearts, we hold a deep sense of love and admiration for Jeff Sessions and his family.”
During his nearly two years as attorney general, Sessions implemented policies cracking down on drug enforcement and immigration such as the “zero tolerance policy,” which led to families being separated while trying to cross the U.S. border illegally.
“Jeff Sessions’ principal legacy will be as the architect of President Trump’s war on immigrants,” the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a statement. “Ironically, President Trump’s bullying almost makes one feel sorry for him. We are deeply concerned about what’s coming next.”
Prior to becoming attorney general, Sessions served as an Alabama senator for 20 years. He was also U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. It’s unclear what his next move might be. Earlier today, former state Sen. Luther Strange tweeted that Jeff Sessions should return to the Senate in 2020.