Move undoubtedly presages effort to shut down Mueller probe and suppress its findings.

President Trump sacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday afternoon. He will be replaced by Mathew G. Whitaker, the attorney general’s chief of staff and a vocal opponent of the Mueller investigation, who will officially be the Acting Attorney General for now, although he is likely to be Trump’s choice for Sessions’ permanent replacement.

Trump dodged reporters’ questions about Sessions at his Wednesday afternoon press conference, but he has repeatedly called Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt” and demanded its termination, and it seems obvious that will be the administration’s next move.

Whitaker will now oversee Mueller, and has discretion to keep his report from being made public. However, deep-sixing the Mueller probe is neither easy nor inevitable. It has some Republican support in Congress, enjoys broad public support, and doing so inevitably will look like a coverup and trying to hide Mueller’s findings likely would prove futile because House committees — which will be controlled by Democrats come January — could subpoena the report and compel those involved in preparing it including Mueller to testify.

Sessions gave up a Senate seat to become Trump’s first — and so far only — attorney general. He got the appointment in part by being one of Trump’s earliest and most loyal supporters, and as attorney general, he unabashedly supported Trump’s agenda, especially his anti-immigration efforts. Whoever his ultimate replacement is, there will be no slackening of those efforts, but there can be no question that Trump’s No. 1 focus at Justice will remain the Mueller probe and its potential to bring further criminal charges against his associates and family members, and threaten Trump’s own survival in office. And it’s long been known that Trump was angry with Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe instead of preventing or blocking it, so it’s probably safe to say Sessions’ firing is more than just a policy decision, and is at least in part personal in nature. It’s part and parcel of Trump’s character to demand unwavering loyalty from subordinates, and give no personal loyalty in return.

Photo: Mathew Whitaker likely will be tasked with shutting down Mueller’s probe and keeping its findings secret.

Your Comment