What will Jeff Sessions' departure mean?
Immediately after the US midterm elections, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has stepped down - saying he was doing so at President Trump's request. Matthew Whitaker, Sessions' former chief of staff, will replace him as acting attorney general. Commentators fear that Whitaker - an open critic of Special Counsel Robert Mueller - will torpedo the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.
Trump could override the rule of law
The Süddeutsche Zeitung fears that Trump wants to use Sessions' successor to influence the Russia investigation:
“He still hasn't tried, nevertheless the forced resignation and his widely documented attacks on the investigations leave one fearing the worst. The right thing would be for the next presumtive Attorney General - like his predecessor - to declare himself biased and hand over the oversight of the investigation to someone else. But it doesn't look like that will happen. Trump could spark the legal equivalent of a nuclear bomb by sidestepping the constitutional state and putting himself above the law. Even before the final results of the midterm elections were announced, Trump made it clear what policy he would adopt for the remainder of his term: now it's time to tackle the system.”
An attack on Special Counsel Mueller
Delo finds the fact that Trump is replacing Sessions with Whitaker of all people worrying:
“The replacement has the alarm bells ringing because the provisional chief of the Justice Department won't be Sessions' deputy Rosenstein but Whitaker, who will consequently also have control over the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This decision is worrying as Whitaker has criticised Mueller's work on numerous occasions and alleged that the investigations into the US president's finances overstep the special counsel's remit. According to Whitaker, the investigations could be suspended by freezing Mueller's financial resources. Then the question is whether Mueller would be muzzled or even whether he would step down.”
Republicans must protect inquiry
It's now up to the Republicans to make sure Special Counsel Robert Mueller can continue his work unimpeded, Berlingske stresses:
“An investigation that is hindered or unduly interrupted will fuel the conspiracy theories and deepen the rifts between Democrats and Republicans. Trump has already hinted that he will answer attack with attack and launch counter-investigations if the Democrats decide to use their majority in the House of Representatives to initiate new investigations. ... So also in this context Trump is challenging the US's democratic institutions. If his slogan 'America First' is to be taken seriously, the Republican senators must rally around Mueller and defend his right to bring his report to a conclusion under optimal conditions.”