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Mass. lawmakers warn of ‘constitutional crisis’ after Sessions ouster

President Trump and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
President Trump and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.(AFP/Getty Images)

Political and civic leaders from Massachusetts reacted to President Trump’s dismissal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday with a mix of concern over the ouster and criticism of Sessions.

Some lawmakers called for the protection of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia and whether the president attempted to obstruct justice.

“.@realDonaldTrump’s firing of Jeff Sessions brings us one step closer to a constitutional crisis,” said US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Cambridge Democrat, in a tweet. “Congress must act to ensure that Special Counsel Mueller can do his job without interference.”

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Warren’s US Senate colleague, Edward J. Markey, had similar thoughts.

“Sessions faithfully carried out Trump’s extremist agenda,” said Markey, a Democrat from Malden, in a tweet. “Yet Trump fired him before all the midterm ballots have been counted. If Trump tries to fire Deputy AG Rosenstein next, it will trigger a constitutional crisis. Now more than ever we must protect Special Counsel Mueller.”

Sessions was pushed out Wednesday as the country’s chief law enforcement officer after enduring more than a year of blistering and personal attacks from President Trump over his recusal from the Russia investigation.

In a statement, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who on Tuesday night became the first black woman from Massachusetts to be elected to the US House of Representatives, said, “I am not sad to see Jeff Sessions and his bigoted rhetoric go, but history indicates that Donald Trump could very well nominate a replacement who will advance similarly bigoted, discriminatory policies, and who will endanger the independent Mueller investigation.”

The Dorchester Democrat added, “I will work with my colleagues to defend the fundamental rights of all people and hold the Department of Justice accountable.”

US Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew E. Lelling was a dissenting voice among Massachusetts public officials on Wednesday, calling it “an honor” to serve under the leadership of Sessions.

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“In a time of seemingly endless cynicism, he is a man who genuinely believes in the rule of law, in its evenhanded application to all Americans, and in the men and women who keep us safe every day,” said Lelling in a statement. “He will be missed.”

Trump on Wednesday announced in a tweet that he was naming Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker, a former United States attorney from Iowa, as acting attorney general. Whitaker has criticized Mueller’s investigation.

US Representative Seth Moulton, a Salem Democrat, said in a tweet on Wednesday, “Creating a constitutional crisis to change an Election Day narrative is a new low, even for Trump.”

Carol Rose, the executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, meanwhile, called Sessions’ tenure as attorney general “a disgrace.”

“At every turn, Sessions used his tremendous power not in the impartial service of justice—as was his sworn obligation as the nation’s top law enforcement official—but in the service of Donald Trump’s racist, bigoted, anti-immigrant agenda, trampling the civil rights and civil liberties of millions in the process,” said Rose.

Rose thought it ironic that Sessions “may have been forced out of his job not due to any of his improper actions as attorney general, but instead because of one thing he did properly: recusing himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential criminal actions designed to influence the 2016 election.”

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“Today’s announcement only further calls into question whether Trump—a man who almost daily refers to millions of hard-working residents of this country as ‘illegal’—is himself an illegal president,” she said.


Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Travis Andersen of Globe staff contributed to this report.