Trump fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions; sudden move raises questions about Mueller probe; Trump fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Democrats vow to protect rule of law, Mueller probe;
Tired of spending hundreds of dollars for prescription glasses. Xeni offers thousands of Ford -able eyewear styles starting at just six ninety five. No ridiculous markups. No hassles. Just quality affordable. I wear delivered right to you visits. Any today at Xeni dot com slash CNN. This is CNN breaking news. I'm wolf Blitzer in the situation room. We're following breaking news, President Trump's suddenly fires be attorney general Jeff Sessions for the unpardonable sin of recused himself from the Russia investigation. He'll be replaced for now by his chief-of-staff Matthew liquor who's been critical of Robert Muller's Russia investigation. And may now actually go ahead and supervise it the surprise announcement came after the president claim victory in the midterm election, which saw Democrats seized control of the house of representatives. While Republicans tightened their hold on the Senate. The president's tone was combative suggesting concern of brand new vulnerability to democratic led investigations Democrats are now vowing to protect the special counsel's probe off speak with congressman Joaquin Castro of the intelligence committee and our correspondents specialists. Bay are standing by with full coverage. I let's go straight to our. Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim first of all, what is the very very lace. Oh, what we have a new acting attorney general as name is Matt Whitaker. He has been a CNN a legal contributor in the past. But has also been the chief of staff to the outgoing attorney general Jeff Sessions wolf we have a letter of resignation. We can put up on screen of from the attorney general, obviously this was a force letter of resignation where firing from the president. And as you can see at the top of that letter. It says at at your request. I am submitting my resignation. It doesn't get more. I guess obvious than that that this was a force resignation on the part of the attorney general Jeff Sessions was also something that was a widely expected to happen after this midterm election that we had last night wolf, we were hearing from our sources inside and outside the White House for months that the president has been stewing over Jeff Sessions, and how he recused himself on the Russia investigation last year that has been a source of frustration for this president for some time now of but now Matt Whitaker will be the. Acting attorney general until they permanent attorney general can be chosen wolf and one thing we should point out about Matt Whitaker. He's the he wasn't chief-of-staff to Jeff Sessions. He also on occasion made some comments at essentially sounded like he was parroting talking points over here at the White House arguing that the special counsel, Robert Muller should look into the president's finances. And at one point saying that Donald Trump junior was just fine in terms of taking that meeting with that Russian attorney at Trump Tower in June of twenty sixteen at one point Matt Whitaker, telling my colleague, Pamela Brown that anyone anybody would have taken that meeting that is almost word for word from what we've heard from the president when he's talked about his own son. A having that meeting with that Russian attorney at Trump Tower in two thousand sixteen one other thing we should point out wolf the letter of resignation from a Jeff Sessions again forced letter of resignation from Jeff Sessions, but that backup on screen if we can it does not have a date on it. And there have been questions raised throughout the day. Well, is the fact that there was no date on it. Does that mean that Jeff Sessions had this letter sort of ready to go and was going to fire it off whenever a President Trump wanted it? I'm told by senior administration official just in the last few minutes that that no. That is not the case that essential essentially, they just did not put a letter or a date on that letter earlier this morning, one of his sent over to the White House chief of staff John Kelly was apparently pressing the attorney general on behalf of the president as well that this resignation was wanted over here at the White House. And so obviously the president now is getting what he wants. He's getting rid of Jeff Sessions who had recused himself on the Russian investigation keeping mine rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general he was overseeing the Russian investigation because Jeff Sessions had recused himself. Now that is no longer needed. Matt Whitaker is is free to oversee this investigation in terms of how the Justice department and the White House how they both view at this point. And so that is a favorable develop. Obviously for the president to have somebody like Matt Whitaker who has as I said has been parroting what the White House has said about this investigation with the president said that this investigation is now in charge of the investigation and overseeing the investigation will what are you learning about how it was actually done how the president fired sessions sessions lender. He begins with these words at Iroquois west. I am submitting my resignation meaning he was fired. Exactly. Well, from from what we understand this. This pressure has been going on for some time. Now, obviously, the president has been talking about this. He's confided to aides he's confided to outside advisers and friends for months almost a year. Now more than a year. Now, probably that he is wanted to see his attorney general go from what we understand there. This has been building for some time. And there are there are some up on Capitol Hill who were expecting this to happen. I talked to a source. GOP source leadership source earlier today wolf who said that that it was widely expected among the Republican leadership up on Capitol Hill that the president would do this. And so what the president doing this today forcing Jeff Sessions to resign while it did change the narrative did change the news cycle of president who was claiming that everything had gone just fine last night. Now, we're all talking about Jeff Sessions being out the door. Instead of what happened last night in the midterms across the country will all right Jim Acosta at the White House. Whereas thanks very much. Let's get some insight from our political legal experts and Evan Perez. You cover this for us. What is the firing of Jeff Sessions mean as far as the Russia probe is concerned. I think there's some real questions will as to what happens to the investigation. Obviously, Matt Whitaker has made clear his points of view that Muller has gone beyond his charge that's gone outside. The lines of what he was supposed to be doing. We know he's written these comments. He's made these comments in an op-ed here at CNN and also in comments here on the. Era's CNN. And so it does raise the question of whether or not not Whitaker should be the person who's in charge of this investigation. This is something obviously that the Justice Department's ethics officials are going to have to review and see whether or not the appearance of conflict is enough for Matt Whitaker to recuse himself. Obviously, this is something that it is clear that the president deliberately chose somebody. Who he already knows has some strong opinions about the mother investigation. Exactly he's made his feelings pretty clear, and it's hard to think that the president and met what occurred never discussed this before. Because Matt Whitaker was seen by a lot of people in the west wing liaison between the Justice department and the White House. He was the one who when President Trump sometimes went for weeks or days without speaking to the attorney general one on one we know they rarely ever met one on one not what was the one who really kind of guided the conversations between the White House and the Justice department. So it's not by accident that he picked Matt Whitaker to take over this position. And that would occur is described by the we know miss kind of. Bull in a China. Shop this gregarious personality. He someone who is going to make his feelings out something that if he doesn't think the Russia investigation is credible and noteworthy he's going to let the president know that. And I'm sure that played into a lot of the reason the president picked him to take over the job instead of picking the deputy attorney general rod Rosenstein would be the norm here, and my colleague Laura Jarrett, and are being told in addition to this a little more detail about what happened with the resignation of Jeff Sessions today. John Kelly, call Jeff Sessions before that press conference at the president had today asked him for his resignation, and we're told by sources that Jeff Sessions asked if he could stay until the end of the week John Kelly was very firm to him according to at larger and are told that he could not stay until the end of the week that it had to be today, which raises the question if he did that before the press conference why during that press conference did President Trump duck that question about how long Jeff Sessions was going to be here. And it's a real rebuke for the deputy attorney general attorney general resigns. Or is fired. The deputy attorney general would move up and become the acting attorney general pending confirmation of whoever the president might nominate to become the permanent returning general assuming that person would be confirmed by the US Senate. The question now is will rod Rosenstein quit himself. Well, he resigned because he in effect was publicly slept by the president of the United States slapped in backhanded as well along with Jeff Sessions who's told by your account you have to leave today. Don't even wait till Friday, by the way, it's Wednesday for everyone to remember that he idea here is that power even temporary power can be extraordinarily impactful this person. Matthew would occurs already been told by the president? I had saves through the tweet that he is a temporary holder of this position. It were permanent person will be will be named a later date. We know that to the vacancies reform MAC through the recess appointment. It was going to be temporary regards. He's not a Senate confirmed person at this point. But what can you do in the interim is going to be extremely important? Well, he undermined the investigation the subpoena power. Will he? If he's already received a copy of the report will not allow it to go to the public. Well, he tried to cut the budget as you said one CNN account we try to do a number of things to really hamstring investigation. And that's all important, but it also maybe reversible. Remember a lot of this being preserved by the FBI all that the documentation that support the logic the follow through Robert Muller is in the hands eventually of a democratic led house who could actually look at information come January regardless so, although it's very impactful now, and certainly one that was meant to denigrate only Jeff Sessions and rod Rosenstein into subordinate them immediately. It can be reversed. The question is what will he do in the interim Josh Campbell? How do you see it? Yeah. So I think two things first of all if you think about all the issues that the Justice department deals with all the cases under their purview. All the crimes. There is singularly one investigation that the president cares about and that is the investigation into his campaign. When you look at these past statements that Whitaker has made an. On record criticizing Muller and talking about this red line. That's obviously something that would resonate with the president. Who simply wants us investigation to go away. Now up to this point that conventional wisdom has been the Rosenstein was the barrier. He was the one who protected Muller so long as he was there with the responsibility. Now shifting over to Whittaker as far as the purview of the investigation. We no longer have that barrier. So again, it seems to be leading in that same direction. The second thing I'll say to Laura point there as well. As for as far as the preservation of documents one thing that we have to keep in mind, and this shows the importance of elections, and this continue collision of politics and law enforcement is that the the importance of that democrat win last night in the house of representatives because every single FBI agent analyst prosecutor working on Bob Muller's team right now is a potential witness. And if they try to make this investigation go go away they being to president. And Mr. Whittaker all of those people could be subpoenaed to then come back and explain okay, they've shut this investigation down you tell us what you actually found. So I think that they're on dangerous ground if they think that getting rid of molar is going to make this whole thing. Go away. What do you know about the relationship between Jeff Sessions and Matt Whitaker? But I think it's been tense will certainly recently because it's emerged Matt Whitaker has gone around talking about his relationship is his his conversations with the president. If you remember just a couple of weeks ago, there was a drama with rod Rosenstein, whether or not he was going to be fired. And during that morning, we know that the president had spoken to Matt Whitaker. So would has made it very clear inside the department that he has some kind of a special relationship where he believes he has a special relationship with the White House, a which makes people that the Justice department, very nervous. And so there's been a lot of tension between Whitaker and the attorney general Jeff Sessions, and with the deputy attorney general, I think that's the thing to watch today and coming days how that relationship really kind of manifest itself. But he was the attorney general's chief staff if your chief of staff you had good relations relationship with your chief of staff. Exactly, I mean normally. Achieve staff is has the back of his of his boss in this case, it appeared to be some kind of Shakespearian drama going on behind the scenes where the knives were out. And no one knew who was gonna get stabbed next. And so that forced them on this yesterday. Did they this is something that he didn't really have a relationship beforehand? And so this is one of those things where there was a lot of suspicion about would occur in whether or not he was there. Some kind of spy for the white Whitaker has total disdain for the Muller probe, Laura. I want you to hear what he said. Listen to this tape. I think what ultimately the president's going to start doing is putting pressure on rod Rosenstein, who is in charge of this investigation is acting attorney general and really try to get rod to to maybe even cut the budget of Bob Muller. And and do something a little more stagecraft e than the blunt instrument of firing the attorney general in trying to replace him. I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced it with a recess appointment, and that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Muller. But he just reduces the budget so low that his his investigation grinds to almost. July of last year with Don lemon. You're on that panel with him basically said, you know, what you can't just get rid of the Muller probe the Russia probe, but you could starve to death. It's hard to now delineate whether he was opening or actually relying the president of the United States on on concerns at this point in time. Yes, he could actually do these things to try to hamstring the investigation. He could try to limit the budget. He could say as he has in the past initials that actual clip about this being a Lynch mob and not cooperating with Muller's team. And also about not trying this being something that's beyond the pale and passing a red line. But look into finance is. Now, the interesting thing about what he said then till now is the same at this point in time. He's no more well briefed or well versed in the Muller pro than perhaps anyone at this table. And the reason for that is because as chief of staff of Jeff Sessions who has been recused. He also should not have been privy to the information. So he'll have to be essentially briefed in at this point in time. And he may have some revelations about his own words. They may. You come back to haunt him. There actually may be some credence and by all accounts, including rod Rosenstein, just three weeks ago that the American people should have confidence in what the investigation hold and his forthcoming, and it's no witch hunt and that raises the biggest question in America right now, which is did President Trump asked Matt Whitaker whether or not he would recuse himself from overseeing the Russian destination before he tapped him to become the acting attorney general that's going to be vacation that we're likely going to find out soon. But also White House officials are questioning the logic of the timing here. I know that a lot of critics and pundits do not believe yesterday was a good day for the White House with the mid terms. But in the White House, they thought it was kind of a good day because they were bracing themselves for it to be really ugly for them. And it kind of walked away with what they were expecting a loss in the house, and maybe picking up a few seats in the Senate. So right now the conversation for the last few weeks had been about the midterms not about the Muller pro less than twenty four hours before even the polls close it is right back on being about Robert Muller, the White House and the president's focused on this. Which we should have seen coming since. He was tweeting about it this morning. I suspect Josh the president would not have named Whitaker. The acting attorney general if Whitaker at said, yes, I'm going to have to recuse myself from the overseeing the Russia probe. That's right. We know his disdain that he's expressed to Jeff Sessions, for example, whenever he recused. Actually, did the admirable thing to look I'm conflicted here. I think one point one thing it's important to point out here. Wolf is that I don't want us to walk away today thinking that Jeff Sessions is somehow victim now, obviously he's taking a lot of barbs from the president. He's been this punching back that we've seen. But one thing that's interesting is that he knows what the views of his chief of staff would have been since he was on record. He worked with him. He knew that what Jeff Sessions could have done if he assumed or if he determined in his own estimate that he was being shown the door. And this other person was being brought in for the purpose of influence the investigation. That's not cost to resign. That's cost to wait and get fired and to go out very loudly. We saw from that letter. He was very adoring of the president again. And I don't want folks to think that he's the victim because if he saw malfeasance here or he saw the president trying to clear obstacles in order to go after Bob Muller. He should have spoken up, and he didn't do that. But given all the public statements that Whittaker as a maid of including articles that he posted on CNN dot com interviews with Don lemon other interviews really going after Muller and the probe in one of the articles on CNN CNN dot com. He actually wrote this sentence, and I'll read it to our viewers. It is time for Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this Russia investigation to order Muller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel the ethics office over at the department of Justice. They have pretty strict rules. Can they force him given all the public statements going after the Buller probe? Can they force it to say, you know, what you got a problem? You can't oversee this you have to recuse yourself. Well, I think first of all they have to look whether or not actual conflict, or it's just an appearance of. Flicked at this point wolf based on the writings based on his appearances on television, CNN it appears to be more of an appearance of conflict. And so if the ethics office comes back and says, we think you should recuse because of the appearance of conflict, then he can choose to ignore it. He can say I'm not going to I think you're wrong, and I'm just going to stay in charge of this. And so then, of course, it becomes an issue for people outside and with them what they want to pressure him to do it otherwise. But really it's going to be up to him whether or not he wants to listen to the ethics office indicates of Jeff Sessions. He was part of the campaign. There was an obvious conflict there and sessions has said it millions times he said, I had no choice. The president didn't really seem to buy that. But sessions really had no idea the president at least have the courtesy of calling up sessions and say, you know, what it's time to move on. Thank you for your support. I know you were the first Republican Senator to endorse be during the campaign. We went to Alabama together. We did a lot of rallies, you were very supportive. We disagreed on the recusals issue. But thank you for your service to the country. Thank you for what you've done as a turning general of the United States. Instead, he sends his White House chief of staff John Kelly over there and says you have to resign and do it today. I said what can I spent a few extra days at least saying goodbye to staffers over here at the department. No you must resign today. And their staffers found out from our coverage that he had been fired or asked to resign that adds to the saga. President Trump doesn't like to fire people. He doesn't like one on one conflicts. That is something we've known and we've seen with everyone else as fired, but not only did Jeff Sessions, go out on a limb and was the first Senator to endorse President Trump's something that at that time right now, it seems really easy to say. Oh, well, he was the first one to endorse me, President Trump brushes off at endorsement at that time. Donald Trump was pretty toxic in the Republican party. And not a lot of people were going out on a limb for him Jeff Sessions. Now, we did that he gave up a very safe Senate seat in Alabama. And now the president has not only done this and dragged him through the mud. And fired him essentially, he is also tainted his name a lot of people in Alabama. Look back and criticize Jeff Sessions people who used to be loyal to Jeff Sessions now criticize him because they believe he made the wrong decision to recuse himself but going back to that point about if Matt Whitaker is advised to recuse himself from this. Jeff Sessions had been advised to recuse himself. He didn't physically have to. But he would've looked really bad. If he had not recused part of the campaign. And that was his argument. President Trump didn't see it that way. So even if Matt Whitaker is strongly advised you need to recuse yourself because of the comments you've made about the Muller investigation. It raises the question of if he feels he has the backing of President Trump and doesn't have to will he do that? And his temporary status is a disincentive for even the ethical officers at DOJ to say that he would be required to keep. It was not the appearance. Jeff Sessions was slated to be the attorney general for presumably a four year term if not for consecutive terms, if the president got reelected you're talking about somebody in. Matt Whitaker who's not confirmed by the Senate, therefore, he could not serve more than two hundred and ten days if at all under the vacancies reform MAC somebody who if he was if he was appointed under the recess appointment could only start until January. It may be a cost benefit analysis. Unlike what happily Jeff Sessions to say, you can choose to stay on because your power while wielding wrongly is going to be temporary. So it's serious business. Did the White House plan? This a forced resignation today. Was this timing in the works for a while? Or the president wake up this morning. See something on television and say, you know, what I want this guy gone today. Knit timing. Specifically of today was not in the works for a while. Everyone knew Jeff Sessions. This time was coming to an end on borrowed time. And in is in the last week or two some of his behavior. He's been visiting off field offices the FBI he went to the FBI Justice week. And some of the outward behavior of the of Jeff Sessions was somebody who was saying goodbye to the department. So I think internally he knew that this was very much a high hyphen, but another they've lost the house of representatives. The Republicans are other things lined up with the president might be planning on doing is about firing more people. Yes, that was essentially a big staff shakeup is been in the works for weeks now. And essentially what everyone's deadline has been is I'm going to hang on until the mid terms. And then I'll leave after that. And. Advice actually worked for President Trump. He was convinced did not fired Jeff Sessions before this. But it's also interesting to see the timeline of how this is evolved. Because when President Trump I started attacking Jeff Sessions, he didn't even know how to respond. He was shocked to his advisors. He said he was just going to keep his head down and do his work. And then isn't as criticisms in those attacks very public attacks continued to build Jeff Sessions, actually dug his heels in and said he was going to make Trump fire him because he this is his dream job. He was going to stay there in President Trump wanted him gone. He was going to have to fire him, but we reported in recent weeks, and he was essentially resigned to the fact that he was going to be fired. He was mentally preparing for that. Is that behavior that he's been doing the past two weeks also contributes to that? So he was ready for the stick very quickly. Josh go. Yeah. I was just going to add that I as we talk about, you know, personnel changes. I don't think we can lose should lose sight of the fact that they Torney general is different. This isn't the secretary of commerce or the secretary of agriculture. This is someone who can personally impact the life and possibly the. Future of the president and those in his orbit. He is singularly focused on this investigation. So yes, shakeups, I think our our usual after mid term, but we can't lose sight of the fact that the person that sits in that seat at main Justice as the attorney general the top cop has significant influence on the president or guys everybody stand by I want to bring a democratic congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas. He's a member of the intelligence and foreign affairs committees. Congressman thanks so much for joining us. Do you believe that this is the first step toward ending the Muller Russia investigation? Yeah. I very well. Believe that it could be, you know, the president had signalled for a long time that he didn't want Jeff Sessions to be the attorney general any longer and he finally after the midterm elections actually took the step of firing him. And so we need to find out more about the reason that he was fired. But we also need to make sure that the molar investigation is protected that it's adequately funded. Unlike the position that Matthew Whitaker seem to take that Bob Mueller can continue to do his work should the acting attorney general this this guy, Matthew Whitaker who has been named by the president acting attorney general do believe he should recuse himself from the Muller probe given all the public statements. He's made going against that entire Russia investigation. Yeah. He absolutely should recuse himself, and I hope that the ethics office will make that clear to him and that he act with integrity. He's made some very damaging statements about the investigation about its usefulness about. Funding it about Bob Mueller himself. So yeah, the right thing to do would be for him to recuse himself. And allow the investigation to continue your party takes control of the house of representatives, the two months January if the president take steps to end the Muller probe should that lead to impeachment proceedings? Well, I have said for quite a while that I believe I've seen evidence of obstruction of Justice. And if it becomes clear that this is another move to shut down the Muller investigation than that is something that we'll have to seriously consider, you know, I think many folks in congress, both Democrats and Republicans have been waiting for Bob Muller to produce his report, and perhaps the actionable items in that. But if the president is not even gonna let Bob Muller get to that point then. Yes, that becomes a problem that combined with the fact with how he fired Komi what he's done on McCabe, rod Rosenstein, and others. There is a pretty strong case for obstruction of Justice here. The Senate majority of their Chuck Schumer said this up potentially could lead to a constitutional crisis. How do you see it? I mean, you know, wolf nobody nobody gets elected to congress and goes to congress. I think in order to be involved in a mess like this. Right. Nobody nobody wants that. So I hope the answer is that it doesn't happen. But at the same time the legislative branch does have to hold the president accountable. And we can't just allow somebody. You can't just allow the president to put a yes man in there. Who's going to shut down the mole investigation on his behalf. Is there anything congress could do at this point congressman to protect Muller and his investigation. Well, first of all adequate funding for the work that Bob Muller's doing there should also be legislation. There was a bipartisan Bill that was moving through the Senate. I believe that the White House basically squelched, but there should be legislation at this point the parties coming together the Senate that's controlled by Republicans the democratic house to protect Bob Muller and make sure that this investigation can continue through you got some Republican support for that effort. You know, the evidence from the past doesn't suggest that that's a great prospect. But I think it's important to realize that what happened yesterday is that the American people voted for divided government. They voted for a Republican controlled Senate and democratic controlled house. And it means that they won both parties to work together for the best of the country. Not the best of the president or even the best of the Republican party or the Democratic Party. But for the best of the country. Even if Whitaker doesn't end the Muller pro, but he's going to be overseeing it presumably now he could severely limit the scope or berry any report that Muller might release are you prepared to respond to that possibility in January? The Democrats will be the Geordie in the house of representatives, and they will have as we've been pointing out subpoena power. Yeah. Absolutely. We need to make sure that that doesn't happen. Look, you know, when you're in the majority, I think part of and when you're in divided government part of the trick is that you have to make sure that the politics of things doesn't overtake the substance of things we shouldn't be fighting with the White House just to fight with the White House or justify with the president. But at the same time, the American people deserve answers on these very important and consequential questions about who interfered with our democracy in two thousand sixteen and whether the president or his people had any role in that. So yes, if he oversteps his bounds. We have to make sure that we push back. The bombshell amounts have been today that sessions has been effectively fired just the day after the Democrats won back the Geordie of the house of representatives. What do you make of the timing of all of this? I think that he's been waiting to do it for a long time. And I think you know, they were probably concerned that it would have an effect on Republicans viability in different house and Senate races. So they waited until the next day. But there's no question the president has wanted Jeff Sessions gone for a long time. And I've told you before that, honestly, if you're Jeff Sessions, I don't understand after being beaten up by this president so much somebody that has y'all just mentioned he supported from the beginning. I mean, he was the first guy to go out there and support Donald Trump. He went out on a limb at that time. I don't know why he would have stayed around this long. You think the Democrats now that they're going to be in the majority in the house of representatives, and they'll have oversight. They'll have subpoena capabilities that are you afraid you might not you personally, but the Democrats might overstep. You gotta be careful about that. Like, I said, I think our posture needs to be that if we're going to have clashes with the White House, and I'm sure that we will that those clashes will not be about personality that they're going to be about issues in substance, and the American people, I believe will understand that they understand if you have a disagreement about healthcare or education or infrastructure something else, I think when people turn off on politics, and when they tend to dislike both political parties is with it. They proceed that people are fighting just to fight. So yes, we've got to be careful about that congressman Castro. Thanks so much for joining us. Thank you. Let's bring in our legal analyst people are always a former top US attorney who was actually fired by the Trump administration. Pre. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm anxious to get your thoughts on all the drama this unfolding at the department of Justice right now, how precarious is this moment that we're in right now not just for the Robert Muller Russia investigation. But for American institutions of Justice. I think I think very precarious. I think you can't sound too many alarm bells about what's been going on. I think we've been seeing this in slow motion for a period of time. You have a president that has made very clear they doesn't want the rush investigation to proceed even though his handpicked at the I director has hand picked up. He general have ball said it's not a witch hunt that they're real things to be looking at here. We'll people have been indicted real people have been convicted we'll people have decided to plead guilty and are cooperating with the government and the moment of precariousness is I think especially significant now because we're in a lame duck phase. And so to the extent that there could be a check on the president because the house of representatives change to the other party that doesn't take effect until next January. So you have an acting attorney general who has already indicated that he has some problems without knowing all the facts in prejudging what the mother investigation is about what it should be about. And how much to be funded? You have an opportunity to do something very damaging to that investigation. As I mentioned. Nd but then to your larger point the the crisis a little bit is what is congress do when you're when you're in a lame duck period. And so I think that it may be the case that things are done that shouldn't be that. The investigation is constricted in some way that it doesn't become public immediately. And it some months before at least one house of congress can exercise its oversight responsibility. And make sure that those things are not happening. I think also with respect to the possibility of protecting the special counsel, and there are some bills that have been floating around and this task force that I'm on has also proposed to thing, you know, given that you're dealing with the current congress, which is new fairly supine and fairly in the pocket of President Trump, both the house and the Senate I don't see a lot of the -bility to make that progress over the next three months, so it's a precarious time, generally speaking, and if this moment because we're in a transitional phase is there any historical precedent for for what's going on right now from your vantage point. The obvious president that people talk about is Watergate, I think this is different and in many ways in a more worrisome because the president seems to be acting out in public in some of the ways that Nixon did in private in. Although there's one argument to that makes it less worrisome. I think it's more. So I've this president acts often out of anger, not just strategy. And I think part of what happened today is a response to the election from yesterday. I don't think those two things are unconnected to each other. You know, whether it's to change the subject or to get back at, you know, people he perceives as his adversaries and his and his enemies, even if they're people that he picked to hold positions himself like Jeff Sessions. I think you have a very dangerous situation for which there was no precedent in this particular way. No, some legal experts pre have suggested that Robert Muller could have sealed indictments waiting waiting to go under the assumption that he was worried about his own future. If he was going to go Rosenstein was going to go, do you think he he he has been preparing for that possibility? I two answers to that question with respect to whether or not he's been preparing. I think yes. And I think one of the ways you probably prepared was to make sure they were doing the work as fast as they could another another thing that I think may have been related to a worry about it. And eventual shutdown is parceling out some aspects of things that they found including the Coen case, which went to my former offices this other New York with respect to whether or not they. Diamonds under seal because they're worried about being shut down. I don't think those are directly related. I think that the Muller team some of them, I know personally, but having spoken to would decide to bring a sealed indictment because it was the right time, and they have the facts, and they had the law on their side. And part of the reason to might be sealed is they didn't want to do anything publicly in the run up to the election. So they wouldn't get criticized for doing something that might affect the election. So I think I think all those things are possible. I think there could be sealed indictment. I think could they could be on the verge of getting indictments against other people, and it may be the case of some of the reporting earlier on on on this network has suggested that the mother investigation is coming to a natural close. Anyway, over the coming weeks and months Whitaker. The the Dow do acting attorney general in the past is openly mused about starving the Muller probe starving a funding. How would that work? That's a good question. You know, the way he he talked about it in the bed that he wrote. Was through the power of the attorney general generally who has the ability to send certain resources to certain parts of the department and not to other parts of the department. Just like, you know, United States attorney has the ability to decide you're going to staff at soccer. Donald second. Hold on Preet. We're looking pictures for the department of Justice. There's the suit to be former attorney general as leaving. He's leaving the of Justice to buy some of his associates there. Laura jarrett. Our Justice department reporter is watching all of this unfold, Laura. This is a moment that Jeff Sessions probably -ticipant of of not necessarily today pretty incredible feed out here. Jockeys department courtyard. I say, really. Film career. That was Whitaker. A saying goodbye Winokur his chief of staff now going to be the acting attorney general you see the around of applause that the Jeff Sessions is getting from officials over there at the department of Justice last time, he's they're getting into his vehicle saying goodbye. And then moving on a brief little farewell for the attorney general of the United States are Laura. Go ahead. Tell us what else do you joint here? Could be at the Lipitor Donald ramp. Chief of staff, of course. Deputy attorney general, and it's really quite big here. Welcome. I mean, I would say they're up to two hundred people here at what attorney general departing hippo cool. Where he officials to get called a class usually happens bide outside the office. But of course, it is an extraordinary circumstance at the which is anything, but typical instances clearly everyone wanting to see him on dial wanting to say goodbye and show on really a level of support that is unusual here. You know? Filled with at not being where you see clapping like this. Get back to pre Deloris them by free. What are you think of that a little farewell for the attorney general? You know, a little bit of deja vu all over again. You know, I was fired at a certain point a couple of years ago and have the experience of walking out of my building one Saint Andrews plaza in front of all the people who I had served with and I respect so much and whose mission is incredibly important to the country, and I've been critical of Jeff Sessions as a lot of people have been with respect to some of his policies, and how he's undone some I think civil rights initiatives in the department, but I never doubted that Jeff Sessions loves the department loves the lawyers who work there and was very honored to be in that position and humbled by being in that position. So, you know, after several weeks of a months in fact, being humiliated by the president who appointed him being taunted by the president who appointed him. I I think it's fitting that he got a graceful exit such as such as it was it was it was grateful of it. You got some more information to that was a staged event. Obviously there was a an attempt by people around the Turney. The deputy general rod Rosenstein, no Francisco, the solicitor general all other people trying to give the the the attorney general a graceful, farewell. But it was a stage event to sort of show like some kind of like show force, you know, to sort of show solidarity with him. But let me tell you. I mean, there was a lot of weirdness to to those pictures. This is a by the way, this is the way you traditionally say goodbye to attorneys general. I was there what Eric Holder walked out of the building. There were tears people were clapping. Just just exactly like this. The circumstances today are so so different because you know, Eric Holder was fired as attorney general was today. Pre to get your thoughts on the treatment of rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general how much of a slap in the face is it for the deputy attorney general the number two person at the department of Justice to be bypassed by the president the president naming Rosen's naming sessions chief of staff to now become the. Acting attorney general instead of roses. I don't know if it's any more of a slap in the face. Then, you know, the the embarrassing things that the president has been saying about him from time to time we have that moment a few weeks ago when it appeared that he'd been summoned to the White House, and he was going to be fired on that didn't happen. And there were these periodic statements that they were going to get together and discuss rod Rosenstein, fate Russell signs fate. You know, keeping him dangling to make sure that he knew his place. So I guess it's a bit of a of an insult. But I I don't think the rod Rosenstein didn't expect this kind of thing to happen or that. This was a possibility I do think more importantly more important than than rod Rosenstein, pride his whether or not we're we're now seeing an undoing of special counsels work. Well, now that he's not gonna have anything to do with the special counsels. Russia pro Rosenstein, Whitaker is not going to oversee it presumably unless for some reason he decides to recuse himself, which is probably doubtful. I suspect at this point wouldn't Rosenstein, just take the hin and resign. You know, I'm only laughing because I'm tired everyone's been up all night. But also, you know, there's there's not a lot of people taking the hint these days Jeff Sessions that was a nice walkout. But you would've thought he would have taken the hint months ago in rod Rosenstein, would've taken a hit months ago when other people who work in the White House might have taken the hit months ago. So maybe rod Rosenstein, we'll say maybe he will go it would still be my hope that even though there's a new acting attorney general who will be the most senior person overseeing the motor investigation that that does not necessarily mean that rod Rosenstein gets cast to the side. He's still a person who has deep knowledge of what's going on there? He's the one who appointed by Muller in the first place, and I'm not aware of any regulation that requires rod Rosenstein, not to be involved. And I think it would be silly. And it would also be bad look optically, if the new acting attorney general decided to freeze out rod Rosenstein because he can still offer advice and guidance and counsel, and he should he's a former US attorney in Baltimore rod roses, you know, Kate. I'm actually so what did you think of that little goodbye that the Sunni general now, the former attorney general Jeff Sessions, and it was all staged as Evan correctly points out. They wanted to show that but some are already suggesting maybe you know, it was a little bit of a slap at the president for firing him. Well, of course, and we've seen Jeff Sessions take those actions over the past year when President Trump has criticized him he went to dinner that one time really publicly with rod Rosenstein, and I'm very popular Washington restaurant and up photo of them dining with the solicitor general quickly surface. And that was actually a photo that incensed President Trump after it surfaced online. So that's what likely this was. It's look at me I'm walking out, and you can see the faces on those Justice department employees as Jeff Sessions is leaving. They're not pleased. They they're no they're clapping their thinking him. But no, one looks pleased to be there to be watching Jeff Sessions marched out like this in a lot of people in the White House. Also feel similar to that. They do not think Jeff Sessions deserves the treatment that he's. Gotten from President Trump, they think it's unfair. But a lot of people don't stick up for Jeff Sessions because they see it as just as futile attempt to do anything like that. And we've seen Jeff Sessions lose his defenders inside the west wing. He used to have ranked previous Steve Bannon who all stood up for him and President Trump. I started criticizing him telling the president to lay off of it. And also he would have a weekly lunch when the White House counsel, Don Mcgann who is now gone as well. So there aren't a lot of people in the west wing, except for Stephen Miller whom didn't work for Jeff Sessions, and is largely a big reason why he works for Donald Trump now is still in the west wing still obviously very close to President Trump. You wonder what those people working for him when he was a Senator Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller was a speech writer at the time. He was working for him when he was the Republican Senator from Alabama. And, you know, Laura, it's interesting because not only are people a lot of people at the White House said because they liked sessions, but a lot of Republican senators work closely with Jeff Sessions he was. Republican Senator from Alabama for a long time. They all have a very good relationship. And many of them are privately saying, why did the president of the United States treat this guy as badly as he did especially since sessions was the first Republican Senator to endorse him when he was a campaign where he was a candidate for the Republican nomination, especially unheard have to have a former US Senator and a total up today, a US attorney attorney general being whipping boy of the president of the United States. That's what he's been treated as and I was a former career prosecutor for DOJ as you enter the building. And as you leave as you as attorney general, you have people lining the hallways support third under both Bush and Obama and to see somebody like Jeff Sessions, the attorneys on the United States have an unceremonious departure is just confounding to most people. I don't agree with his policies and the rollback of a main civil rights agenda, the LGBTQ issues a consent decrees. However, you should give respect to the attorney general, and what you saw there was the people who were actually in the Linux secession. Including rod Rosenstein, and such a general there. And also, of course, his now successor who is not in the line standing there. And I think you had Jeff Sessions trying to be as great as he could to shake his hand. I suspect he was not as he never really had a good relationship with it to begin with pre. Let me thank you very much. Pre Perahera always important for you to be here with you have a final thought before I let you go. Look, I'm worried about who the next attorney general might be remember this person is only in an acting capacity. And I think it's a it's a precarious time as you use that word, I think appropriately it's a fraud time, and it's a contentious time, and that person is very very important. There's a lot of time left in the Trump administration. Not just with respect to the mother pro, but all sorts of issues of law and order and fairness and Justice going on in the country. And so I hope he chooses wisely. Any hope I hope he chooses someone who can get consensus support to tell you. What's moment? Indeed. All right, guys. Thanks very much. There's a lot going on. Let's ticket pick break. We'll resume our special coverage right after this. You know, what's not smart job sites that overwhelm you with tons of the wrong resumes. But you know, what is mart ZipRecruiter dot com slash situation. Unlike other job sites, ZipRecruiter doesn't wait for candidates to find you. 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Dan, we watch this all very closely. A lot of people were bracing for at some point sessions to leave. But it was surprise it happened so quickly only hours after the midterm election. The only thing that was surprising about it is when it happened. The fact that the president stood up in in the eastern of the White House with, you know, the entire White House press corps for an hour and a half and didn't mention it. He was asked about it. He was asked about it. Clearly, it was in the works. And and the fact that the people who some people who are in the White House people who are in his legal team. And maybe more importantly that people in the Senate who have to carry the ball for the next person didn't know, and you know, for any other cabinet official. That would be like, okay, whatever this is the Trump world, but be general this attorney general with this Muller investigation going on. It's hardly just any other cabinet official. It has so many implications. And you know, so far aside from this a new statement we've seen from Senator elect Mitt Romney that's still kind of. It's the first time I've seen everywhere man is is you know. Kind of been been crickets about the locations for the mother the thing that I wonder about is with the timing. We clearly knew that Donald Trump the second that Jeff Sessions recused himself last year. Donald Trump was frustrated and probably wanted him gone a year ago, and basically said I'll get rid of them after midterms the one thing I wonder about is does Donald Trump look and see a plus three in the Senate and think well that gives us it does give more cushion now. Now, can you could lose theoretically, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and still get in attorney general confirmed because Dan is right that that you pick a member other than state that's going to be the biggest Democrats will try to stand the Ferguson whoever he picks he he can get someone confirmed. The question is will any Republicans in leadership come out and say, this is not okay. I think Jake tapper made the point earlier that this precedent will survive this. President can Republicans see beyond their own noses that this could come back to haunt them. At some point that the president of the United States the day after a midterm election. Fires his own AG who just happens to be in charge of an investigation implicating him and his family and his and his closest friends and allies that that should not be okay. And I'd love to hear some Republicans. Just one say so and put in charge, by the way, a guy who passes over rod Rosenstein and puts charge a guy who we know is much more Trumpian on the probe, right? One thing that we should note the president has every right to pick his cabinet. This has every right to confirm the candidate. I mean, you know, that's just basically how it works. However, the tone of his news conference today, and then an hour later finding out that Jeff Sessions was getting fired and you're gonna put two and two together. He came out very competitive, very tired. I haven't slept. I slept forty five minutes last night. I think still pretty darn good. No, no. But seriously, really tired drawn out. And he was girding for a fight. No matter what. And not only did you fight with the cost of he fought with just about every reporter, he's surrounded by friendly anymore, April. You were there at that news conference that they tried to get a question to the president. He he didn't want. He didn't wanna talk to you. No, he didn't. But you know, speaking of that press conference in in you guys are right? The fact that he was asked that question, and he did not answer it, and he he woulda. Wow, Did knowing what was happening in our later. But yes, I in the middle of in the middle of the president finishing an answer to a reporter. And then calling another reporter I've found a space to ask the president a question about the issue of voter suppression. And he responded, and I took that as he was calling me. So I stood up and he told me to sit down on multiple occasions. And then he said something about the CNN poll numbers is about voter suppression. And I came back with the issues of voter suppression in Florida voter suppression in Georgia voter suppression in in North Dakota. And he told me to sit down yet again. And then he continued to say I was hostile. I was rude. But I was just doing what a reporter does asking questions of a president of the United States. Look at that. I went through the transcript of that press conference took several hours just finished it on civil kitchens dinner mentioned this on several occasions. He's asked about the mother Pearl, and and sort of sessions, and he says, and he says, look I could fire everyone, which it's he's sort of could. But it wouldn't go away. I mean, if you read that in the light of what an hour later, two hours every time for the might of what then happened in John Kelly was firing him. He was officially fired via tweet it is ominous in connection with passing over Rosenstein. The fact that he is called it a witch on one hundred and fifty plus time since he's been president nights. And putting in a guy who we know from what he is written in. What are you said on in on this website? And I'm this air is someone who shares a view that that Muller has already gone too far as two thousand seventeen you add all that up. But it does take a mathematician, a seasonable wear this appears to be. Heading not Donald Trump is willing to go all the way and try to either curtail remove cut budget of molar. You made the point. These Republicans are reluctant to criticize the president at all either sensitive issue why because they've been castrated they've been castrated by a president is a masculine did his own party. This is a guy who was gloating hours after a mid about the losses in his own party. Because since the day he ran he didn't care at all about the health of the Republican party. It was about him. And so the Republican members that serve alongside him have decided that he is the party and they've completely lost any of their their soul their principal their strength. Not all of them, the ones that have said something in some cases, have been in his words retired everybody standby, there's a lot more news. That's coming in right now. We're following all the breaking news. We'll we'll take a quick break. We'll be right. Before you go. We wanted to let you know that we just launched the ability for anyone to advertise on CNN podcast. 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