The sudden forced departure of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday drew howls of protest from Democrats in the Congress, with lawmakers expressing concern that President Donald Trump was intent on disrupting the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as Democrats now must wait eight weeks before they take charge of the U.S. House and weigh in more directly to protect the Russia investigation.
“While the President may have the authority to replace the Attorney General, this must not be the first step in an attempt to impede, obstruct or end the Mueller investigation,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“It is very clear AG Sessions was fired,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). “The Mueller investigation must not be interfered with.”
“He wants an Attorney General to serve his interest, not the public,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is expected to soon be the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, where he will further pursue ties between Russia and the Trump Campaign in 2016.
It was no secret that President Trump wanted Sessions out, as the President had made it very clear for over a year that he was angered by the recusal of Sessions on the Russia investigation, which put it in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who then selected Mueller to run the probe after the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
The biggest concern among Democrats is that they have to wait eight weeks before they take charge of the House – which means they will be powerless to deal with any steps taken by the President about the Russia probe in the interim.
“The House of Representatives must do everything in our power to protect the integrity of the Special Counsel investigation,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).
“If this is a precursor to firing the Special Counsel, we have entered crisis mode,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). “It’s time to protect Mueller.”
“Pressuring and forcing Attorney General Sessions to resign is an unacceptable effort to interfere with the chain of command in the Russia investigation,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).
“Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller's investigation? We will be holding people accountable,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who is expected to chair the House Judiciary Committee in the new Congress.
Other than GOP Senators wishing their former colleague the best of luck, Republicans in the Congress said almost nothing about the Sessions departure and the future of the Mueller probe.
“Regardless of who is serving as attorney general, the special counsel's investigation must come to its conclusion unimpeded,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), one of the few GOP lawmakers to echo the warnings of Democrats.