By Clare Foran, CNN
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer reacted to the news of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s firing by warning that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential Russian collusion must be safeguarded from interference and said he hopes Republicans help counter the President in the event of a “constitutional crisis.”
“I just heard the news, but I’d say this: Protecting Mueller and his investigation is paramount. It would create a constitutional crisis if this were a prelude to ending or greatly limiting the Mueller investigation, and I hope President Trump and those he listens to will refrain from that,” Schumer said at a press conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.
Sessions resigned his position as attorney general in a letter to the President, writing, “At your request, I am submitting my resignation.” Trump announced on Twitter that Matthew Whitaker will become the new acting attorney general.
Whitaker, who was Sessions’ chief of staff, is expected to take charge of the the Russia investigation and special counsel Robert Mueller from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
In a statement released after his press conference, Schumer called on Whitaker to recuse himself from oversight of the special counsel investigation.
“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,” the New York Democrat said in the statement.
Mueller is investigating potential links or coordination between Trump’s 2016 campaign associates and the Russian government. The President has consistently denied that there was any collusion and has attacked the inquiry as a “witch hunt.”
A senior GOP congressional aide reaffirmed the previous position for GOP leadership that Trump should not fire Mueller.
“He would be playing with fire,” the aide said.
New York Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, who is poised to become the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when Democrats take control of Congress, tweeted on Wednesday that “Americans must have answers immediately” about Sessions’ departure from the administration. “Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation? We will be holding people accountable.”
Schumer said at his press conference that he hopes “if there is a constitutional crisis that our Republican colleagues would join us in thwarting the President from creating that crisis.”
The Senate Democratic leader said he finds the timing of Sessions’ departure “very suspect.” He went on to say, “our paramount view is that any attorney general, whether this one or another one, should not be able to interfere with the Mueller investigation in any way. They should not be able to end it. They should not be able to limit it. They should not be able to interfere with Mueller going forward and doing what he thinks is the right thing.”