Russian Federation probe 'under threat' after Sessions fired

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With Sessions out, longtime Trump ally Matthew Whitaker is now serving as acting Attorney General and assuming oversight of the Mueller investigation.

Mitt Romney, the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nominee who won the Utah race on Tuesday to become a U.S. senator, also said Mueller's probe should not be affected by Sessions' dismissal.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had been overseeing the investigation, but Sessions' sudden ouster Wednesday means that baton passes to Whitaker. "For months now I've been saying, after the election, if the president wants to change attorney generals (sic), he has every right to do so".

Trump saw the move as a betrayal and frequently and publicly criticised Sessions for making the decision to recuse himself. Rosenstein was at the center of a recent controversy after it was reported that in the spring of 2017 he raised the idea of Cabinet members invoking the 25th amendment to remove the president and suggested that he should secretly record Trump. "The president could, and has in our nation's history, said stop investigating this person or please investigate this other person".

Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, took over supervision of the Russian Federation investigation.

As deputy attorney general, Rosenstein is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Justice Department, including the activities of the country's US attorneys. In an August 2017 op-ed for CNN, he argued that the scope should be narrowed only to direct interactions between Trump's presidential campaign and Russian Federation, and not include anything pertaining to Trump's business interests or finances.

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New acting attorney general Matt Whitaker is a longtime critic of the Mueller investigation and is a former Republican candidate. Whitaker used his personal Twitter account to promote an op-ed by another lawyer that calls the Mueller probe "a lynch mob".

Whitaker has already come under fire for deeply critical views of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe that he'd made in the past. But Trump and his aides are concerned about Mueller's next move with the work that is complete, according to a White House official and a Republican with close ties to the administration.

Whitaker, who had a stint as a legal commentator for CNN, has been vocal in his criticism of Mueller's investigation and its scope.

Sessions, who was an early backer of the Trump campaign, recused himself in March 2017 from overseeing the Russian Federation investigation under a similar rule which prohibits officials from overseeing investigations into subjects with whom they have a "a personal or political relationship".

Trump, who denies any collusion, has long complained about the probe, calling it a witch hunt. However, it would be an immediate priority for Democratic investigations when they officially take control of the House in January. "We therefore ask that you immediately provide us with all orders, notices, and guidance regarding preservation of information related to these matters and investigations", they added, in letter sent to officials including Whitaker, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Nevertheless he appealed to Republicans not "beholden" to Donald Trump to reign in any attempt to fire Mueller. But Mr Sessions's replacement will have the power to do so, or end the inquiry.