Attorney General Jeff Sessions Resigns at the President’s Request
By Heather Ham-Warren | November 9, 2018
On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions became the latest member of President Trump’s Cabinet to leave his position. In July 2017, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly resigned to become White House Chief of Staff. That September, Tom Price surrendered his position as Secretary of Health and Human Services after the scandalous fallout of taking taxpayer funded private charter flights. On two separate occasions in March 2018, President Trump fired both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin on Twitter. Then, in October 2018, Nikki Haley announced her decision to relinquish her role as the U.S. Representative to the United Nations. But despite scandals, resignations, and firings no other person has been on the receiving end of the President’s (very vocal) disappointment quite like Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Interestingly, in February 2016, then-Senator Sessions was the very first Senator to outright endorse then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Less than a year later, Sessions was being confirmed by the Senate as President Trump’s new Attorney General. At that time, the Senator was considered an unparalleled choice for the Attorney General position, having decades of experience in the Senate, and being one of the leading voices for immigration policies that favor American interests over that of illegal aliens.
However, a few short months after his confirmation, the relationship between the president and his attorney general quickly began to unravel when Sessions recused himself from any Justice Department investigations into Russian interference in the election. Since then, there have been numerous instances in which the president has publicly condemned Sessions in the media or on Twitter. In September of this year, when asked about his attorney general in an interview, the president stated, “I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad.” Nevertheless, the reality is that throughout his tenure, Jeff Sessions remained the same, steadfast defender of U.S. immigration laws as he was during his time in the United States Senate.
For example, he instructed all federal prosecutors along the southwest border to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for all offenses referred for prosecution under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a), which prohibits both the attempted illegal entry and the illegal entry of an alien into the United States. To assist with this increased workload, he expedited Department of Justice hiring processes, adding 300 prosecutors and 44 immigration judges. Furthermore, this summer, Sessions strengthened requirements for asylum laws— clarifying that crimes such as domestic violence and gang-related attacks would not automatically entitle aliens to asylum.
Sessions has also taken strides to quell the influx of drugs and crimes that are frequently a result of transnational gang activity. In mid-October, he created a taskforce to combine government agencies’ resources to disrupt drug traffickers and human smugglers. Additionally, he designated MS-13, Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, Sinaloa Cartel, Can del Golfo, and Lebanese Hezbollah as transnational organized criminal groups.
However, Sessions’ dedication to President Trump’s signature campaign issue did not insolate him from the president’s frustration. Just one day after the crucial midterm elections President Trump officially asked Jeff Sessions to resign from the position of attorney general. In a formal resignation letter to the president, Sessions states, “In my time as Attorney General we have restored and upheld the rule of law—a glorious tradition that each of us has a responsibility to safeguard. We have operated with integrity and have lawfully and aggressively advanced the policy agenda of this administration.”
Following the resignation announcement, FAIR President Dan Stein released a statement saluting Jeff Sessions for his unwavering support for immigration control and his years of public service to the country. “We hope the next attorney general will demonstrate a commitment to the safety of the American people and the security of the American workplace to the same degree demonstrated by Jeff Sessions,” Stein said.
Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff, will be taking over as the acting head at the Department of Justice, with a permanent replacement to be announced in the near future.