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Sessions resigns at Trump's request, setting up likely clash over Russia probe

Chris Megerian and Del Quentin Wilber, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions has resigned, ending a tortured relationship with President Donald Trump and opening what could be a historic fight over the sprawling criminal investigation that has clouded his White House tenure.

In a letter delivered to the White House, Sessions wrote that he was submitting his resignation at the request of Trump, who has been highly critical of his attorney general since he recused himself last year from overseeing investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

Sessions wrote that he had been honored to serve as attorney general and sought to uphold the rule of law. "I came to work at the Department of Justice everyday determined to do my duty and serve my country," he wrote. "I have done so to the best of my ability."

Trump long had wanted Sessions gone but resisted forcing him out until after the midterm election. Sessions' resignation almost certainly got ahead of his being fired by the president.

With Sessions out, Trump may attempt to limit or end the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and whether the president himself obstructed justice.

A new attorney general could take control of the criminal probe, which has already led to guilty pleas from several of Trump's former top aides, and restrict its budget or scope.

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During his time in office, Sessions had sought to carry out the president's agenda despite their toxic relationship, steering the Justice Department to tougher policies on violent crime, drug trafficking and immigration.

Sessions endured months of humiliating criticism from the president, who publicly accused his attorney general of disloyalty and weakness, and privately mocked him.

On Aug. 23, for example, Trump complained on Fox News that Sessions "never took control of the Justice Department" and said he only nominated him as the nation's top lawman because "he was an original supporter" of Trump's insurgent campaign. "What kind of man is this?" he asked angrily.

Sessions signaled he had no intention of stepping down voluntarily, however, and pushed back at Trump with public statements that asserted the traditional independence of the Justice Department.


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