The day after the congressional elections, Donald Trump warned the Democrats before. Of course he is ready to work with them, the president said. But if they use their new majority in the House of Representatives in January to initiate new investigations against him, he will take a "war position".
Only a few hours later, the US President immediately provided the Democrats with a new reason for political strife: he did not even wait until the votes in the midterm elections were counted to remove the annoying Justice Minister Jeff Sessions. On Wednesday afternoon, Sessions surprisingly resigned his office with immediate effect – under pressure from the president, who had reportedly long wanted to take action, but took the step at the insistence of the Republicans after the midterm elections.
For the US policy, the forced resignation has far-reaching consequences. Finally, Jeff Sessions also served as Attorney General Robert Mueller, the Special Investigator who is currently examining the ties of Trump's former campaign team. Mueller also wants to find out whether the president in the office deliberately tried to hinder the ongoing investigations and to remove unpleasant people from the way. Russia's investigations burden Trump's presidency since taking office. Through Sessions departure, they now come back into focus.
Outraged Sessions, the former Senator from Alabama, had received the chief justice department chief as a reward for being the first senator to recommend candidate Trump on a big stage. Standing at the head of the agency, Sessions, who shares the president's uncompromising views on issues such as immigration and prosecution, is his "dream job."
But soon the 71-year-old hardliner fell out of favor with his new boss. The decision to withdraw from the ongoing Russia investigation and entrust it to his Vice President Rod Rosenstein for failing to disclose to the Congress repeated meetings with the Russian Ambassador before he was appointed, Trump never forgave him. For the president, who takes unconditional loyalty personally, this was a serious breach of trust.
Since then, Trump has barely had an opportunity to publicly attack sessions, nick him, or portray the minister as weak. Added to this was the frustration over the ongoing investigation. Again and again, the president reportedly complained to staff that investigations would take too long. Over the summer it became clear that the relationship between Trump and his minister was irreparably damaged. "I have no Minister of Justice," the president said in September.
Danger for the Mueller investigation As if the dismissal is not enough: Doubts about the motives of Trump's should also wake up with his critics the decision to appoint just Matthew G. Whitaker as interim chief. Whitaker was previously the chief of staff of Session. If long-time officials and critics had already feared an increasing politicization of the Ministry of Justice under the former boss, this fear under Whitaker will probably be confirmed even more. At any rate, earlier statements made by the new head of the administration hardly leave any doubt about his motivation.
For example, in an interview with CNN in July 2017, Whitaker openly speculated on how the president could most elegantly dispose of the annoying investigations. Should Trump replace sessions with an interim chief, he could use the control of the budget to "let the special investigator dry out" – even if Rosenstein continues to be the official investigator. "That would almost bring the investigation to a halt," Whitaker said. In a guest post for the same medium, he ruled only a month later: "Mueller's investigation into the president goes too far."
It is hardly surprising that President Whitaker has been chosen as the provisional successor. The work of Rosenstein and Mueller will not be easier under Whitaker, the future of the investigation is at stake. It is also clear that the Republicans will do little to protect Mueller and his investigations now – too great is the party's fear of Trump's base, which secured them on Tuesday the Senate. For the Democrats, on the other hand, it is probably the days since today when the new congress meets for the first time.