U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his resignation on Wednesday after unrelenting criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump over his recusal from an investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential race.
Sessions' departure was widely expected to come soon after Tuesday's congressional elections in which Republicans retained their majority in the Senate but lost control of the House of Representatives.
Never in modern history has a president attacked a Cabinet member as frequently and harshly in public as Trump did Sessions, 71, who had been one of the first members of Congress to back his presidential campaign in 2015.
>> Read more: The era of total Trump control is over ■ Night of firsts: From gay and Jewish to Native American and Muslim ■ The biggest loser of the Midterms ■ Thank you, America's women. You may yet save the world
Trump announced Sessions' departure on Twitter. Sessions said in a letter to Trump that he resigned at the president's request. Sessions' chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, will be acting attorney general, Trump said on Twitter.
Sessions departs as the nation's top law enforcement officer while Special Counsel Robert Mueller, operating under the auspices of the Justice Department, pursues a wide-ranging Russia investigation that already has yielded a series of criminal charges against several of Trump's associates and has dogged his presidency.
Rep. Jerry Nadler demanded an explanation immediately after the announcement. "Americans must have answers immediately as to the reasoning behind @realDonaldTrump removing Jeff Sessions from @TheJusticeDept. Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation? We will be holding people accountable.
With Democrats grabbing control of the House of Representatives, Nadler will become the chairman of the Judiciary Committee – and could preside over impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Journalist Bob Woodward's book, "Fear: Trump in the White House," claims the president called Sessions "mentally retarded." The book, which contains explosive anecdotes about Trump's first 18 months in office, quotes the president as saying of Sessions: "He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama."