In a resignation letter, Jeff Sessions – a former Alabama senator who was an early supporter of Donald Trump – made clear the decision to go was not his own.
He wrote: “Dear Mr. President, at your request I am submitting my resignation.”
“Most importantly as my time as attorney general, we have restored and upheld the rule of law,” he added, while thanking the president.
President Trump has repeatedly pilloried the attorney general since Jeff Sessions stepped aside from the Russia investigation in March 2017, allowing his deputy Rod Rosenstein to lead an inquiry that has dogged the White House.
In July 2017, President Trump told the New York Times: “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.”
The president has at various times belittled Jeff Sessions as “beleaguered”, “VERY weak”, and “DISGRACEFUL”.
According to a White House official, Chief of Staff John Kelly called Jeff Sessions before President Trump’s combative press conference to discuss midterm election results on November 7.
The attorney general’s exit comes as Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues to hunt for evidence of potential collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.
Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation – overseen by the DoJ – has resulted in a series of criminal charges against several of Trump associates.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer tweeted after the announcement was made: “Clearly, the President has something to hide.”
Chuck Schumer added: “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.”
President Donald Trump has said that payments to two women who say he had affairs with them did not break election campaign rules.
His comments come after his ex-lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to violating laws during the 2016 presidential election over his handling of the hush money.
Interviewed by Fox & Friends, President Trump said the payments had come from him personally, not from the campaign.
Donald Trump has in the past denied knowing about one of the payments altogether.
He also accused Michael Cohen of making up stories to receive a lighter sentence.
In an excerpt from the Fox & Friends interview, which will be aired in full on August 23, President Trump responded to questions about the hush payments by insisting that they were “not a campaign violation”.
He said: “They came from me. And I tweeted about it. But they did not come out of the campaign.”
President Trump added that he only found out about the payments “later on”.
The president’s comments contradict a statement made earlier by Michael Cohen under oath in which he said Donald Trump had instructed him to make the payments.
Last month, Michael Cohen released audio tapes of him and Donald Trump allegedly discussing one of the payments before the election.
Michael Cohen, who was Donald Trump’s personal lawyer for more than a decade, admitted passing on funds to two women thought to be Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
The hush money payments were not reported to the Federal Election Commission during the campaign.
The question is whether the payments were made to protect Donald Trump’s personal reputation or to protect his image as a presidential candidate.
Under US election rules, any payments made with the aim of influencing a vote must be reported.
Michael Cohen acknowledged in court that the aim was indeed to protect Donald Trump’s candidacy, saying he had paid the money “at the direction” of Trump “for the principal purpose of influencing the election”.
If Donald Trump were to be prosecuted over the money – not through the normal courts, because he is the sitting president, but conceivably in Congress, through an impeachment process – investigators would have to prove that he had indeed given the money to Michael Cohen for electoral reasons.
In his first public comments, back in April, about his alleged affair with Stormy Daniels, President Trump denied knowing about the $130,000 payment made to the actress via Michael Cohen.
Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, alleges that she and Donald Trump had met in a hotel room in 2006.
Asked by a reporter in the press cabin of Air Force One if he had any knowledge about where Michel Cohen had got the money to pay Stormy Daniels, President Trump responded at the time: “I don’t know.”
The following month, the president officially disclosed a payment to Michael Cohen of between $100,001 and $250,000 for expenses incurred in 2016.
Michael Cohen has reached a plea deal with prosecutors, which may see his prison sentence reduced from 65 years to five years and three months.
On the same day that Michael Cohen pleaded guilty, a jury convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of bank and tax fraud charges.
It was the first criminal trial arising from the justice department probe led by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.
Robert Mueller has been investigating allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, and whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to swing the election in his favor.
Russia has denied claims it interfered in the elections.
There is no confirmation that Michael Cohen will speak to Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry but his personal lawyer has said his client is happy to talk.
According to recent reports, President Donald Trump’s legal team is in talks with investigators who are seeking to interview him as part of a justice department probe.
The Washington Post, quoting an unnamed person close to President Trump, says investigation lead by Robert Mueller is likely to interview him within weeks.
President Trump’s legal team has not confirmed the reports.
Robert Mueller is investigating possible collusion between Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia in the US elections.
Tensions between Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to look into alleged Russian interference, and the president have risen since the investigation led to charges against several former members of Donald Trump’s campaign team.
Donald Trump’s administration denies working with Russia on the election, and the president has labeled the investigation “a witch hunt”.
According to The Post, Robert Mueller first raised the possibility of interviewing the president in a meeting with his lawyers, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, in late December.
President Trump’s lawyers are reluctant to allow him to sit down for open-ended questioning and are discussing whether to allow him to provide written answers to some of the questions, The Washington Post and NBC News report.
According to NBC, which cited three people close to the story, the talks are “preliminary and ongoing”.
President Trump’s lawyers did not confirm the reports, but told both media outlets: “The White House is continuing its full co-operation with the OSC [Office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller] in order to facilitate the earliest possible resolution.”
The Post, quoting an unnamed source, says the two sides planned to meet again to continue discussions on terms and substance of any interview.
Aside from the Russia angle, special counsel Robert Mueller may also look into whether the president and his inner circle sought to obstruct justice while in office following the firing of FBI director James Comey.
Robert Mueller was appointed by the justice department as special counsel shortly after James Comey’s dismissal.
Sitting presidents have been interviewed by prosecutors in the past, most notably when Democrat President Bill Clinton testified before a grand jury in 1998 over his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
President Donald Trump has denied he is planning to fire Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Tensions have been rising between the White House and Robert Mueller’s inquiry.
On December 16, a lawyer for Donald Trump’s presidential transition group said thousands of emails had been unlawfully obtained by Robert Mueller’s team.
Responding to questions over the legal row, President Trump said it was “not looking good” and his people were “very upset”.
The president said, while returning from a weekend trip to Camp David: “I can’t imagine there’s anything on them, frankly, because, as we said, there’s no collusion.”
Donald Trump’s administration has denied working with Russia in the 2016 election and the president labeled the investigation “a witch hunt”.
Responding to a media question on the White House lawn on whether he was considering firing Robert Mueller amid his criticism, President Trump responded: “No, I’m not.”
Several Democratic lawmakers had expressed concern, and on December 15 the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Adam Schiff, said he feared Republican members wanted to shut the probe down.
Several former members of Donald Trump’s campaign team are facing charges as part of the investigation.
Kory Langhofer, a lawyer working for the Trump for America (TFA) group – who helped Donald Trump’s transition to the White House after his election, complained on December 16 after the group became aware Robert Mueller’s investigation had obtained tens of thousands of their emails.
He sent a letter to congressional committees claiming the records had been obtained unlawfully.
The TFA group had used the facilities, including email hosting, of a government agency, the General Services Administration (GSA), in the period between Donald Trump’s election in November 2016 and inauguration in January.
In his letter, Kory Langhofer, says GSA staff “unlawfully produced TFA’s private materials, including privileged communications” to Robert Mueller’s investigation team.
The emails obtained reportedly involve 13 Trump transition officials, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn who pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI earlier this month.
The GSA, Kory Langhofer complains, “did not own or control the records in question” and maintains the constitutional rights of transition officials were violated.
A spokesperson for Robert Mueller said they had done nothing wrong.
Peter Carr said: “When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process.”
GSA Deputy Counsel Lenny Loewentritt has denied another of Kory Langhofer’s accusations, that the GSA gave assurances that requests for Trump transition records would go through the group’s lawyers.
Lenny Loewentritt told BuzzFeed that the transition group knew materials would have to be provided to law enforcement “therefore, no expectation of privacy can be assumed”.
Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell tweeted that the accusations were “another attempt to discredit Mueller as his #TrumpRussia probe tightens”.
US intelligence agencies believe Russia tried to tip the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump – a charge denied by both Moscow and the president.
President Donald Trump has questioned the neutrality of the investigator of the Russian interference in last year’s election.
President Trump said Robert Mueller’s friendship with James Comey, who had been heading the inquiry until sacked from his role as FBI chief, was “bothersome”.
Asked on Fox News whether Robert Mueller should step down, Donald Trump said: “We’re going to have to see.”
However, President Trump did call Robert Mueller an “honorable man”.
Robert Mueller was given the role of special counsel by the justice department to lead its investigation into alleged Russian interference after James Comey was sacked on May 9.
Robert Mueller has not given any details of his investigation but US media have reported he is investigating President Trump for possible obstruction of justice, both in the firing of James Comey and whether Donald Trump tried to end an inquiry into sacked national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Donald Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia, calling it a “witch hunt”.
The president did so again in his interview with Fox & Friends on June 23, saying “there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion.”
He called the accusations of obstruction of justice “ridiculous”.
Asked whether Robert Mueller should recuse himself from the inquiry because of his friendship with James Comey, President Trump said: “Well he’s very, very good friends with Comey which is very bothersome. But he’s also… we’re going to have to see.”
Image source Wikimedia
President Trump also said that “the people that’ve been hired were all Hillary Clinton supporters”.
When Robert Mueller was appointed President Trump was said to be furious, but the special counsel won widespread initial praise from both Republicans and Democrats.
However, lately some influential conservatives have intensified their attacks, openly calling for Robert Mueller’s dismissal.
President Trump advocate Newt Gingrich urged the president to “rethink” Robert Mueller’s position, saying: “Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair.”
The New York Times has reported that President Trump has considered firing Robert Mueller but has so far been talked out of it by aides.
Ten days ago, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “While the president has every right to” fire Robert Mueller “he has no intention to do so”.
On June 23, her colleague Sean Spicer repeated there was “no intention” to dismiss Robert Mueller.
In his Fox interview, President Trump said: “Robert Mueller is an honorable man and hopefully he’ll come up with an honorable conclusion.”
Earlier this month, James Comey testified to Congress that President Trump had pressured him to drop the investigation into Mike Flynn.
Mike Flynn was sacked in February for failing to reveal the extent of his contacts with Russian Ambassador to Washington Sergei Kislyak.
James Comey testified he was “sure” Robert Mueller was looking at whether Donald Trump had obstructed justice.
According to media, Robert Mueller was also examining whether James Comey’s sacking was an attempt by the president to alter the course of the investigation.
On June 16, Donald Trump sent out a tweet appearing to accept he was under investigation, although later his aides suggested that was not the intention.
On June 22, President Trump also made it clear that he had not made secret recordings of his conversations with James Comey, despite an earlier hint to the contrary.
The president’s tweet came a day before he was required by Congress to hand over any such tapes.
Donald Trump had kick-started speculation of the recordings in a tweet he posted days after firing James Comey, saying: “James Comey better hope there are no <<tapes>> of our conversations.”
Allegations of collusion between the Trump team and Moscow officials during the election have dogged the president’s first five months in office.
Investigators are looking into whether Russian cyber hackers targeted US electoral systems in order to help Donald Trump win – something Moscow has strongly denied.
Robert Mueller is leading an FBI inquiry into Russian meddling in the election.
Donald Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia, describing the ongoing inquiry as a “witch hunt”.
The latest development was first carried in the Washington Post. Later the New York Times and Wall St Journal reported the story, citing their own sources.
The Washington Post said the decision by Robert Mueller to investigate President Trump’s own conduct is a major turning point in the investigation, which until recently focused on the Russian angle.
The latest media reports say the obstruction of justice investigation began just days after Donald Trump fired James Comey on May 9.
James Comey, who had been leading one of several Russia inquiries, testified to Congress last week that President Trump had pressured him to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Mike Flynn was sacked in February for failing to reveal the extent of his contacts with Russian ambassador to Washington, Sergei Kislyak.
Image source Wikipedia
James Comey testified under oath that President Trump had told him during a private meeting: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
The White House has said President Trump “has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn”.
James Comey had testified he was “sure” Robert Mueller was looking at whether Donald Trump had obstructed justice.
However, James Comey also testified that, to his knowledge, President Trump had not tried to stop the Russia investigation.
Meanwhile, the Wall St Journal quoted a source as saying that Robert Mueller would examine whether James Comey’s sacking was an attempt by the president to alter the course of the investigation.
President Trump said he had fired James Comey because of the “Russia thing”.
He reportedly told Russian officials at an Oval Office meeting a day after sacking Director James Comey that his position had now eased.
“I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off,” Donald Trump said, according to a US official quoted by the New York Times.
The latest reports also speak of an investigation into possible money laundering among Trump associates.
A former senior official told the New York Times that any collusion between the Trump team and Russian officials would have involved a pay-off, and that there may have been attempts to hide the route of the payments by using offshore banking.
The three names being mentioned in media are Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, and Richard Ledgett, until recently Admiral Rogers’ deputy.
At a Senate panel last week, Daniel Coats and Mike Rogers declined to answer questions about conversations with the president, but said that they had never felt pressured to interfere in investigations.
The Washington Post says the three have agreed to be interviewed by investigators and the questioning could happen as early as this week.
The three were not involved in the Trump campaign but may be asked whether President Trump sought their help to end the Flynn inquiry.
A separate Washington Post report has said that Daniel Coats told associates in March that the president had asked him to try to get the FBI to back off.
However, the Times points out that the latest questioning does not mean a criminal case is being built against President Trump, simply that information is being gathered by the FBI. It will be passed to prosecutors who will then have to decide.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that former Trump aide Michael Flynn told his transition team at the beginning of January – earlier than was previously thought – that he was under federal investigation for working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the election campaign.
Donald Trump appointed Michael Flynn as his national security adviser weeks later despite the warning, but he was sacked after just 24 days.
In his statement announcing Robert Mueller’s appointment, Rod Rosenstein said: “The public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”
Robert Mueller, who will have wide-ranging powers, said simply: “I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.”
Just over an hour after the news of Robert Mueller’s appointment emerged, President Trump predicted the new investigation would clear him and his team.
“A thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” he said.
US intelligence agencies believe Moscow tried to tip the election in favor of Donald Trump.
In his statement announcing the move, Rod Rosenstein said: “The public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”
Robert Mueller, who will have wide-ranging powers, said simply: “I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.”
Just over an hour after the news of Robert Mueller’s appointment emerged, President Trump predicted the new investigation would clear him and his team. Previously, the White House had said there was no need for an outsider to lead an inquiry.
Image source Wikimedia
“A thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” said President Trump.
The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said Robert Mueller was “exactly the right kind of individual for this job”.
However, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi was more cautious, saying: “A special prosecutor is the first step, but it cannot be the last.
“He cannot take the place of a truly independent, outside commission that is completely free from the Trump administration’s meddling.”
Republican leaders were also restrained.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the appointment “confirms that the investigation… will continue.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan said: “My priority has been to ensure thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead… The addition of Robert Mueller as special counsel is consistent with this goal.”
Normally US prosecutors answer to the attorney general. However, for investigations into high-ranking officials in the executive branch the attorney general – or in this case Rod Rosenstein – can appoint a special counsel with greater independence from the executive.
However, while special counsels are free from day-to-day supervision by the justice department, they must notify the attorney general of any “significant” action and they would need to ask permission to expand the investigation beyond their mandate.
Robert Mueller has the authority to investigate not only links or co-ordination between Russia and Trump campaign officials, but also “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”.
The role should not be confused with that of independent counsel, a role introduced in legislation by Congress after the 1970s Watergate scandal.
Appointed by a three-judge panel, the independent counsel operated outside the jurisdiction of the justice department.
However, after the experiences of the Iran-Contra investigation during the Reagan administration and the inquiry into President Bill Clinton’s Whitewater land deal, the law fell out of favor with both Republicans and Democrats, and Congress failed to renew it in 1999.
President Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced out in February after he misled the vice-president about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador before Donald Trump took office.
The Federal Bureau has used drones for surveillance in limited cases over US soil, FBI Director Robert Mueller has told a US Senate committee.
Robert Mueller said the agency had “very few” drones and had used them in “a very minimal way” and “very seldom”.
But the director said the FBI was in the “initial stages” of developing drone policies.
In May, President Barack Obama said he would curtail the use of armed drones in operations outside the US.
Under the new policy described by the White House, the US will only allow drones to be used in areas that are not overt war zones when there was a “continuing, imminent threat” to the US and capture was not feasible.
Robert Mueller has told a US Senate committee the FBI has used drones for surveillance in limited cases over US soil
Wednesday’s acknowledgment that the US federal investigative service has also used drones comes as the nation debates electronic surveillance following the recent disclosure of massive internet and telephone data snooping programmes.
Robert Mueller, who is retiring in July after 12 years as FBI director, described the drone use in testimony in a hearing of the US Senate judiciary committee.
“I will tell you that our footprint is very small,” he said.
He said drones were used in “particular incidents where you need the capability” but said he was unsure how long images captured by the drones were kept.
A surveillance drone was used during a February stand-off with an Alabama man who shot dead a school bus driver and then took a five-year-old boy hostage, according to media reports at the time.
FBI Director Robert Mueller says the US is taking “all necessary steps” to hold Edward Snowden responsible for exposing secret surveillance programmes.
Robert Mueller confirmed to the House judiciary committee that a criminal investigation had been launched.
Edward Snowden, 29, has admitted leaking information about National Security Agency (NSA) programmes that seize data from US internet and telephone firms.
Meanwhile, US senators briefed on the programmes have largely defended them.
Edward Snowden, who has pledged to fight any attempt to extradite him to the US, fled his home in Hawaii for Hong Kong shortly before reports of the top secret programmes were published by the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers last week.
China says it has “no information to offer” on the leaker’s whereabouts.
Edward Snowden, a former NSA contract computer technician, has admitted giving the newspapers information about NSA programmes that seize vast quantities of data from US internet and telephone companies.
In testimony on Thursday, Robert Mueller told the judiciary committee the leak caused “significant harm to our nation and to our safety”.
The FBI director, who is due to step down in September after 12 years in the job, said intelligence gathered following the leaks showed plotters were adapting to the revelations.
“One of my problems is that we’re going to… lose our ability to get their communications,” Robert Mueller said.
“We are going to be exceptionally vulnerable.”
He also stressed the phone records programme collected “no content whatsoever”.
Some committee members remained unconvinced by Robert Mueller’s defense.
Representative John Conyers, the committee’s top Democrat, said he feared the US was “on the verge of becoming a surveillance state”.
FBI Director Robert Mueller says the US is taking “all necessary steps” to hold Edward Snowden responsible for exposing secret surveillance programmes
Robert Mueller said if the programmes had been place before the 9/11 attacks, they might have uncovered the plot.
“That opportunity would have been there,” he said.
But John Conyers replied: “I am not persuaded that that makes it OK to collect every call.”
The FBI director also told lawmakers Edward Snowden was the “subject of an ongoing criminal investigation” related to the leaks but would not give details on the status of the case.
Meanwhile, senators leaving a closed-door briefing with General Keith Alexander of the NSA largely defended the programmes.
Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska insisted procedures were already in place to protect Americans from government snooping and that the revelations in the news media had mischaracterized the programmes.
“It is misunderstood that American private information, emails and phone calls are being rummaged through by the government – that is not true,” he said.
“Only when there is probable cause given with a court order of a federal judge can they go into the content of phone calls and emails in order to be able to disrupt a terrorist plot.”
Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker told reporters lawmakers were given “some specific and helpful information about how these programmes have helped keep Americans safe”.
Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, predicted the Senate would consider legislation to curb contractors’ access to secret data.
In an interview at an undisclosed Hong Kong location published in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday, Edward Snowden said he believed there had been more than 61,000 NSA global hacking operations which targeted powerful “network backbones”.
He vowed to fight extradition to the US.
“All I can do is rely on my training and hope that world governments will refuse to be bullied by the United States into persecuting people seeking political refuge,” the paper quoted Edward Snowden as saying.
“Things are very difficult for me in all terms, but speaking truth to power is never without risk,” he said.
“It has been difficult, but I have been glad to see the global public speak out against these sorts of systemic violations of privacy.”
Who is Edward Snowden?
Age 29, grew up in North Carolina
Joined army reserves in 2004, discharged four months later, according to the Guardian
First job at National Security Agency was as security guard
Worked on IT security at the CIA
Left CIA in 2009 for contract work at NSA for various firms including Booz Allen
Called himself Verax, Latin for “speaking the truth”, in exchanges with the Washington Post