WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. media on Thursday emphasized the effects President Donald Trump's decision to oust former Attorney General Jeff Sessions could have on the ongoing special counsel investigation.
Sessions resigned at Trump's request Wednesday following a tumultuous relationship with the president sparked for his decision to recuse himself from matters involving Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion with the effort.
Trump announced Sessions' Chief of Staff, Matthew Whitaker, will serve as acting attorney general until a permanent replacement is confirmed by the Senate.
While out of government, Whitaker worked as a legal analyst for CNN, regularly criticizing Mueller's probe and proposing the president could sever Mueller's budget to a point where "his investigation grinds to almost a halt.”
The decision to temporarily replace Sessions with Whitaker prompted speculation the decision was driven by Trump's desire to see the probe, which he and his close allies have called a "witch hunt," ended.
"Trump Installs a Critic of the Mueller Investigation to Oversee It," ran a New York Times headline.
The newspaper and other media outlets highlighted Whitaker's public comments while he was working as a private citizen, highlighting his reputation within the Justice Department while describing him as a Trump loyalist.
"Before his current job at the Justice Department, Mr. Whitaker, a former college football tight end, was openly hostile on television and social media toward the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and was seen by department officials as a partisan and a White House spy," the Times wrote.
"Now Mr. Whitaker will oversee Mr. Mueller’s investigation, prompting concerns that he could move swiftly to shut it down or hobble it, despite serious questions about his own potential conflicts in supervising it," the Times added.
Likewise, The Washington Post, reported the president described Whitaker in talks with his advisers as a Trump loyalist who "would not have recused himself from the investigation," citing current and former White House officials.
The Post pointed out that potential ethics conflicts Whitaker might have after chairing an election campaign for Sam Clovis a 2014 Republican candidate for Iowa state treasurer who has now become a witness in Mueller's investigation after working in the Trump campaign.
The Los Angeles Times further pointed to discontent the president's action has stirred among Democrats, saying the decision "will likely create an immediate flashpoint in coming weeks."
The newspaper pointed to several prominent Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Ron Wyden who said the president "must be terrified,” about what Mueller's probe has found.