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Monday March 18th, 2019 5:53PM

The Latest: Acting attorney general says he's honored

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Jeff Sessions' resignation as attorney general (all times local):

7:10 p.m.

The new acting attorney general says he's honored that President Donald Trump has confidence in his ability to lead the Justice Department.

Matthew Whitaker said in a statement Wednesday that he is committed to "leading a fair department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law, and seeks justice for all Americans."

Whitaker says Jeff Sessions, who was forced out Wednesday, has been a "dedicated public servant for over 40 years." He calls Sessions a man of integrity "who has served this nation well."

Whitaker became acting attorney general after Sessions resigned from the Justice Department. Sessions said in his resignation letter that the move was made at Trump's request.

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5:55 p.m.

Jeff Sessions has left the Justice Department for his last time as attorney general.

Sessions walked out Wednesday evening to applause from more than 150 employees who gathered in a courtyard at the Justice Department.

As he left, Sessions appeared emotional and said, "Thank you" and "God bless," before hopping into a waiting SUV.

He also shook hands with his chief of staff Matthew Whitaker, who was appointed acting attorney general on Wednesday after Sessions resigned at the president's request.

Whitaker told Sessions: "It's been an honor, sir."

Trump's relationship with Sessions frayed just weeks into his tenure, when he stepped aside from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential coordination between the president's Republican campaign and Russia.

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5:40 p.m.

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins is warning the Trump administration not to undermine the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller following Attorney General Jeff Sessions' resignation.

In a tweet Wednesday, Collins expressed concern about the administration's announcement that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will no longer be overseeing the probe into possible coordination between Trump's 2016 Republican campaign and Russia.

She tweeted: "It is imperative that the Administration not impede the Mueller investigation." She added: "Special Counsel Mueller must be allowed to complete his work without interference_regardless of who is AG."

Sessions resigned Wednesday at the president's request. His chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, is now expected to oversee the Mueller investigation.

Whitaker once mused about a situation in which Trump could fire Sessions and then appoint an acting attorney general who could stifle the funding of Mueller's investigation.

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5:20 p.m.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is expected to oversee the special counsel's investigation into potential coordination between the president's Republican campaign and Russia now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has resigned.

Asked Wednesday if Whitaker would take control of the probe, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores said Whitaker would be "in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice."

President Donald Trump named Whitaker as acting attorney general after Sessions resigned Wednesday. Whitaker had served as Sessions' chief of staff.

He once mused about a situation in which Trump could fire Sessions and then appoint an acting attorney general who could stifle the funding of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Trump's relationship with Sessions frayed just weeks into his tenure, when he stepped aside from the Russia investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has overseen Mueller's work.

___

5:15 p.m.

The top Democrat on the House oversight committee says Congress should investigate "the real reason" for the "termination" of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland says it is not acceptable if President Donald Trump requested Sessions' resignation to interfere with the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference and possible coordination with Trump associates.

Sessions announced his resignation Wednesday.

Cummings is also pushing for Congress to "confirm" that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is recused from overseeing the investigation. Whitaker is expected to oversee the investigation despite being critical of it in public statements and chairing the campaign of a witness in the probe.

Cummings is set to chair his committee in January when Democrats take control of the House.

___

3:20 p.m.

The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee says he wants "answers immediately" after Jeff Sessions was forced out as attorney general by President Donald Trump.

Rep. Jerry Nadler is in line to become the chairman of the Judiciary panel when Democrats take control of the House in January. He tweeted that "we will be holding people accountable."

Trump has long expressed frustration with Sessions over his recusal from the Justice Department's Russia investigation. Democrats worry that firing Sessions is a path to removing special counsel Robert Mueller and trying to end the probe.

Nadler says he wants to know why Trump is making the change and "who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller's investigation?"

___

3:15 p.m.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says it is "paramount" that the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller be protected by President Donald Trump's new attorney general.

Trump forced Jeff Sessions out as attorney general on Wednesday after the midterm elections. The president said Sessions' chief of staff, Matt Whitaker, would replace him for now, with a permanent replacement coming later.

Schumer says he finds the timing of Sessions' departure "very suspect." The New York Democrat says it would spark a "constitutional crisis" if Trump forced out Sessions as a "prelude" to ending or limiting Mueller's investigation.

Trump and Sessions had a falling out after the attorney general recused himself from Mueller's investigation. The president has repeatedly belittled Sessions in public and expressed regret about appointing him.

___

2:45 p.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has resigned as the country's chief law enforcement officer at President Donald Trump's request.

Sessions announced his plan to resign in a letter to the White House on Wednesday.

Trump announced in a tweet that Sessions' chief of staff Matt Whitaker would become the new acting attorney general.

The attorney general had endured more than a year of stinging and personal criticism from Trump over his recusal from the investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Trump blamed the decision for opening the door to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who took over the Russia investigation and began examining whether Trump's hectoring of Sessions was part of a broader effort to obstruct justice.

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