Following Republicans claimed victory in midterm elections, Trump told Sessions to resign and replaced him with Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff and a longtime critic of the Russia probe, Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader who could be the next speaker, said in a statement posted to Twitter that Sessions’ ouster was a “blatant attempt” to undermine the Russia probe.
It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by @realDonaldTrump to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) November 7, 2018
Pelosi and some other Democrats advised Whitaker to recuse himself from supervising Mueller’s Russia probe, as Sessions did.
Whitaker wrote an opinion piece for CNN in August 2017 that argued Mueller had too much latitude in his investigation.
The Mueller probe should not extend to the finances of Trump, his family or their business, the Trump Organization, he argued.
“Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
Trump announced his readiness to reach potential deals with Democrats on any of their priorities, if they were willing to forget about the Russia probe.
“It really could be a beautiful bipartisan situation,” Trump said.
However, he warned that any House investigations of his administration would be his red line and hurt prospects for bipartisanship.
“They can play that game, but we can play it better,” Trump said. “All you’re going to do is end up in back and forth and back and forth, and two years is going to go up and we won’t have done a thing.”
He said Pelosi had expressed to him in a phone call a desire to work together. With Democrats mulling whether to stick with Pelosi, who was speaker when the party last controlled the House, or go in a new direction, Trump wrote in a tweet earlier on Wednesday that she deserved to be chosen for the position.
Pelosi, at a Capitol Hill news conference before news of Sessions’ departure, said Democrats would be willing to work with Trump where possible. But she added: “We will have a responsibility to honor our oversight responsibilities and that’s the path we will go down. We again (will) try to unify our country,” she said.
The Democrats fell short of a tidal wave of voter support that would have won them control of both chambers of Congress.
But in the 435-member House, the party was headed for a gain of about 30 seats, beyond the 23 they needed to claim their first majority in eight years.