Jeff Sessions resigns as attorney general

Posted: 1:56 PM, Nov 07, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-07 19:56:14Z
Jeff Sessions resigns as attorney general

(RNN) - Jeff Sessions has had a tumultuous relationship with President Donald Trump. And a day after the midterm elections, he resigned as attorney general

Trump even considered Sessions a "dumb Southerner," going so far to mock his accent, according to the book  "Fear: Trump in the White House,"  by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.

"This guy is mentally retarded. He's this dumb Southerner ... He couldn't even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama," Woodward quotes Trump as saying.

The president also privately labeled Sessions a "traitor," according to the book.

Trump never forgave Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, even openly tweeting in May that he wished he'd picked someone else.

The president signaled he finally had enough in a  Fox News interview  on Aug. 24 after months of taking shots at the attorney general.

"I put in an attorney general who never took control of the Justice Department. Jeff Sessions never took control of the Justice Department," Trump told the network. "Even my enemies say that 'Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself and then you wouldn't have put him in.'"

Sessions hit back  in a statement , saying: "I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in. While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."

Trump then  quoted that statement  and  wrote in another tweet  that Sessions should "look into" a dozen of the president's pet annoyances, including Hillary Clinton's emails, the so-called Steele dossier and "Russian collusion by Dems."

"Come on Jeff, you can do it, the country is waiting!" Trump wrote.

Sessions' March 2017 recusal from the Russia investigation left Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge of the probe, and he appointed Robert Mueller as the special counsel.

Republican Congressional leaders, who had long stood by their former colleague, also finally indicated they would accept a change.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who'd once said there would be "holy hell to pay" if Trump fired Sessions, most notably changed his tune.

"The president's entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that's qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice," Graham  told Reuters .

Sessions had taken heat from Trump throughout his time leading the Justice Department.

As early as July 2017, Trump said in an interview with the  New York Times  he wouldn't have hired Sessions had he known in advance he'd recuse himself.

"How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, 'Thanks, Jeff, but I can't, you know, I'm not going to take you.' It's extremely unfair, and that's a mild word, to the president," Trump said.

Sessions nonetheless resolutely pursued Trump's agenda at the Justice Department.

He  announced  the administration's "zero-tolerance" family separation policy, and oversaw its implementation.

"If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It's that simple," Sessions said in May. "If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law."

As the policy drew wide condemnation, Sessions  defended it . When Trump abandoned it, Sessions  defended it  still.

Sessions was the senator from Alabama from 1996 until he resigned to become attorney general, rewarded by Trump for being the first senator to endorse the then-candidate in 2016.

Prior to entering the Senate, he was the attorney general of Alabama for two years. He had previously been a U.S. attorney in the state for 12 years, a position to which he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan.

Sessions was born in Selma, AL, and grew up about an hour away in Hybart. He served in the Army Reserve from 173 to 1986 after earning his law degree from the University of Alabama.

During his time as senator, he ranked as one of the most conservative lawmakers in Congress.

He supported the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

He opposes abortion, voted against the Affordable Care Act and President Barack Obama's 2009 stimulus package.

He served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1973 to 1986 and worked as a private attorney in Alabama before President Ronald Reagan nominated him as a U.S. attorney in 1981, a position he held for 12 years.

His nomination for a federal judgeship failed in 1986 when the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats led by Sen. Ted Kennedy called him out for "racially charged comments."

A former federal prosecutor testified at the time that Sessions had called the ACLU and the NAACP "un-American" and "communist-inspired."

Members of the NAACP staged a sit-in in his Mobile, AL, office last January to protest his nomination as U.S. Attorney General.

He has been married to his wife, Mary, since 1969, and they have three children - Mary, Ruth and Sam.

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