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Trump Fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 7, 2018 - 15:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: As a Democratic arm of Congress who -- who, without question, without question, would take that step.



TAPPER: The other question is, would any Republicans in Congress raise their voice and support that effort?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, maybe Lindsey Graham would, because he has...

TAPPER: Lindsey -- the same Lindsey Graham from South Carolina?

BORGER: The same Lindsey who has said Mueller has to finish his investigation.

But there are so many dominoes here really to think about. First of all, who's in charge? Is Whitaker now in charge of Rosenstein, who is in charge...


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: If he's the acting attorney general.


BORGER: If he's the acting. And he is in charge -- I'm sorry -- in charge of Mueller and in charge of Mueller as a result?

Because they were thinking of Whitaker to replace Rosenstein, remember, when Rosenstein, they all thought he was going to get fired because of what he said in a private meeting about the president? And so Whitaker was on deck. Whitaker was on deck.

And so Rosenstein still remains, but if he has lost his authority, and he has expressed faith in Mueller, which he has publicly, will he resign?

So is this one other way of decapitating the Justice Department? And then Congress also -- I mean, Schumer just said this, but there's been legislation that you got to protect the Mueller investigation. And you could get that passed in the House in five seconds now.


DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Does Rosenstein stay, number one?

And if he's not overseeing the investigation and he resigns, if Whitaker oversees that investigation, remember, one possibility is that he fires Mueller, tries to end it. The president said something very different today. The other thing is that Whitaker could curtail, could limit the scope of the investigation, could start to weigh in on privilege questions that come up once the report is out.

These are our big questions.

BLITZER: Let's not forget, Jeff Sessions, among Republicans in the Senate was very well-liked. He's a former us senator from Alabama. He was the first Republican senator who endorsed Donald Trump, and the way he was treated by the president after all those rallies in Alabama and all that -- it was a pretty sad moment.


BLITZER: And a lot of Republicans in the Senate right now like Jeff Sessions, and they are not going to be happy the way he...

KING: But here's a point, to Gloria's point, though. Are the post- election statements of those Republicans, do they match up with their pre-election statements?

Lindsey Graham said Jeff Sessions might have to go at some point, but we have to leave Mueller alone.


KING: John Cornyn, the number two Senate Republican, just issued a statement saying Jeff Sessions is a great man, he has served great downgrade service. It says nothing about what to go -- what about the key investigations?

John Cornyn had been one of those saying, everybody, calm down. Let Bob Mueller finish his work.

BLITZER: And Laura Jarrett, our Justice Department reporter, is now saying that Whitaker is expected to take charge of the Mueller...


LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look how prescient the words of Rod Rosenstein were just two weeks ago, or three weeks ago, when he was talking about how the American people should be assured that there is a lot of faith to be had in the Mueller investigation, in the probe, that it's not a witch-hunt.

Perhaps he read the tea leaves far sooner than even Jeff Sessions did today. And notice that the line of succession normally would be, if Jeff Sessions leaves, he automatically becomes the acting attorney general, would never disrupt the actual line of investigation over the Mueller probe.

Now that we have the president saying, I'm going to name a successor who would not normally be in the line of succession, he essentially is saying, given the op-eds that have been written before, given the notice of noticing that the president believes that this person will serve the country well, in light of Mueller's probe going too far, in Matthew Whitaker's own words, you have the writing on the wall.

Now, the question will be, where does the report go? Because while people been have looking at the midterm elections, Mueller has not been sitting around twiddling his thumbs. He's been waiting to abide by the Justice Department's internal rule. He will not disrupt the election.

So the expectation could be perhaps there's already things ready to go. Now, whether or not Whitaker will curtail or undermine the expose of what's already been done is a question. But he still is in a very powerful position.

KING: Plus, the Southern District of New York. We're talking about Bob Mueller. A lot of the Trump finances, Trump Organization, the things Matthew Whitaker wrote about in that CNN op-ed, that's been handed off to the Southern District of New York. They cut the deal with Michael Cohen. They cut the deal with the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.

Those investigations that get to the president's company, the president's business, the president's associates are not Robert Mueller's anymore. They have been handed off. So that's another question for the new acting attorney general.

TAPPER: I want to bring in a CNN legal commentator Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, your response to this? What do you think this means, President Trump effectively firing the attorney general, and instead of having the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, act as acting attorney general, bringing in the chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, who is on record supporting the president's interpretation of the unfairness of the Mueller probe?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it means that the president is taking charge of the Mueller investigation.

And the Senate is going to do exactly nothing about it. I mean, remember, we just had this election yesterday, where Trump Republicans did great and expanded their majority. So the idea that this Senate will exercise any sort of reluctance, hesitance, control over the president, I think is folly.


I think this is a going to be a rubber stamp Senate. The fact that Jeff Sessions was -- is a former senator and liked by several of his colleagues I think is totally irrelevant at this point. Donald Trump cares deeply about limiting the authority of Mueller, if not firing him altogether. And I think he's taking steps right away to take charge of the Mueller investigation.

And I don't think the Senate, this Senate, is going to do a thing about it.

TAPPER: Very interesting. Thank you so much, Jeffrey Toobin.

And one of the things, David Chalian, that's going to be an interesting test is what happens with this incoming Republican Senate. What happens? What will their reaction to this be?

Will there be enough -- I guess if they have 55 votes -- seats, then the question is, will five of them, will six of them be willing to join with the Democrats to take action to protect Mueller? I don't know that that's actually needed. Maybe the House can just hire him if actually Mueller is fired, which hasn't happened.

But are there five or six Republicans willing to buck President Trump?

I don't think so.


And to your point earlier, you said -- you called this Senate Republican Conference Trumpier than before. So the numbers don't stack up that way, who these are.

Now, does a Ben Sasse or a Mitt Romney all of a sudden come in and feel that they want to play...


CHALIAN: And Collins and Murkowski.

TAPPER: That's four.

CHALIAN: Well, they may only be...

TAPPER: That's not six.


CHALIAN: It's not six, but they may not need six. We don't know how the total numbers are going to go.


KING: I'm sorry to interrupt, but McConnell has said let Bob Mueller finish his job. Post-election, answer. Speak up.


CHALIAN: He says it and he moves on from it. I really think if you listened to the president at the press

conference today, the president of the United States to my ear was reasserting his belief that he has total control over the Mueller probe and that he can end it no matter what -- and, yes, he hasn't done it and he's let it play out.

BLITZER: He said he could fire any of them.


CHALIAN: But I think he was sending a message in that press conference today that was just about, this is up to me. I get to decide if the Mueller probe ends.

And this is the now step that...


GREGORY: Can I just add a contrarian thought? Maybe I'm just being naive here, which is do you really think -- I know the president likes all flights. Do you think he wants this fight?



TAPPER: Why not? Why would you not like it? He maintains he's done nothing wrong. It feeds into his sense of grievance. He doesn't -- there's...


GREGORY: Right, but he invites a war.

Like he said today, there's nothing to hide, let it play out, they won't find anything. He uses that as a bigger club before 2020 and in the run-up to 2020, more than if he completely cuts it off and has everybody on him.

KING: But he does like fights. It does bait the Democrats.

At this moment, where Nancy Pelosi tried to be calm and measured, now this happens an hour later. The progressives who want to impeach him are going to come running out, saying, see, there he goes?



I was kind of leaning down in my corner on the phone. I just spoke with Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer on this issue, who said the following, because the obvious question was, is he going to shut it down?

The answer was: "It's gone on this long. I can't imagine he would end it now."

OK, that's the...

GREGORY: Who said that?

BASH: Rudy Giuliani just said that to me, meaning, can't imagine that the president would end it now, which backs up what you just said. Let it play out.

They claim and they insist that they have nothing to hide. We have been reporting that the president has -- or his lawyers, I should say, has questions, written questions, about whether or not there was collusion, limited to the time before the presidency started during the campaign.

And we will see where that goes. Now, I also want to caveat, a big caveat. Not ending it, allowing it to play out is very different from a president guiding it and how it plays.

BORGER: Well, that's the point.

BASH: And that is really important.

BORGER: Well, that's what he's doing. That's what he's doing by replacing Sessions, putting in somebody who agrees with him on the Mueller investigation.

We don't know what this means for the status of Rod Rosenstein. And so what he's doing is, he's being the puppet master here.


KING: And it's at a time we know the question soon to come from Mueller to whoever his boss is at the Justice Department, what do I do with this Roger Stone piece of the investigation? I have had everyone before the grand jury. Here's my evidence.

Roger Stone, was he or was he not coordinating with WikiLeaks? Did he pass on some heads-up to the Trump campaign that the Russians or at least that the WikiLeaks had, whether or not he knew they got them from Russia, had these e-mails and they were going to release them? And should we weigh in on when they released them?

We don't know the answer to those questions, but we know Mueller's investigating them and we know the grand jury has been very busy. And we know he was waiting until just after the election bring it to the fore.


BLITZER: Jerry Nadler, the congressman from New York, who is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, he is expected became the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he just tweeted this in response to the president.

[15:10:05] "Americans must have answers immediately as to the reasoning behind Donald Trump removing Jeff Sessions from the Justice Department. Why is the president making this change, and who has authority over special counsel Mueller's investigation? We will be holding people accountable."

TAPPER: We have an answer. Laura Jarrett has already told us that now Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general, has the supervisory role over the Mueller investigation, taking it away from Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general.

So we have an answer to that. In terms of his reasoning, the president doesn't have to have reason. He can fire the attorney general if he wants.

But can I just say one thing, which is I think we're missing the bigger picture here, which is after President Trump fired James Comey, I said that we are all going through a slow-motion, multi-month Saturday Night Massacre.

When President Nixon fired, was it Leon Jaworski, the special counsel looking into Watergate, and there was a whole bloodbath that went through with the attorney general, Elliot Richardson, resigning, and then the deputy attorney general resigning, et cetera.

And, ultimately, Robert Bork, I believe, was the one who fired Jaworski, that was called the Saturday Night Massacre, for people who don't remember. And it was the president trying to -- President Nixon at the time, get away from any sort of accountability from the Justice Department.

President Trump has been doing that in slow motion. I'm not saying he's responsible for anything like what happened after Watergate. We have no idea what happened and what Mueller will turn up, and maybe he will turn up nothing.

But it has been a slow-motion Saturday Night Massacre, starting with the firing of James Comey and now with the firing of the attorney general.


BLITZER: Hold on one moment.

Laura Jarrett, our Justice Department reporter, is getting some more information now.

What else are you learning, Laura?


I just wanted to update you. As we're learning more and more about how all of this went down this morning, I'm now told by a senior administration official that the president did not even call the attorney general to fire him or ask for his resignation himself. Instead, the chief of staff, John Kelly, did it. And that's the

person that Sessions had his hand-delivered resignation letter delivered to just a short time ago.

But it gives you just sort of a picture of even, at the end of the day, the president did not even call this attorney general to deliver this news. After all of the tweets, after all of the berating, he did not even do him that courtesy.

Now, we're also told that Matthew Whitaker, Sessions' chief of staff, is expected to take over the Mueller probe. But, again, this is all very fast-moving. And as everyone has mentioned already, Whitaker has a checkered past when it comes to the Mueller investigation.

He has not been quiet about times where he thinks that Mueller has overstepped, particularly in relation to the president's finances. And I'm also told there's no word yet on whether Mueller actually got a heads-up on whether Whitaker could potentially be his boss.

So we wait to find out more information about how all of that will shake out and whether Mueller said anything to that news. As of right now, Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are still here in the building -- Wolf.

TAPPER: Very interesting.

BLITZER: Didn't even have the courtesy to call him up well and say, you know what, it's over.

TAPPER: It's a grand irony of the Trump presidency that somebody who is best known for the catchphrase "You're fired" actually in real life never has the stomach to actually say it to anybody, whether it is James Comey or Omarosa or now the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

BORGER: Can I ask a question? Maybe, Dana, you know the answer to this, which is, could Democrats try and do something with like-minded Republicans in a lame-duck session over this?

BASH: You mean to try to get to get the legislation to protect Mueller?

BORGER: Yes, I mean, is there is there anything that could be done if they're feeling...


BASH: Maybe.

TAPPER: Theoretically, sure.

BASH: Theoretically, yes.


BASH: There could be so.


KING: Paul Ryan, on the way out the door in the middle of this, Jim Jordan, Steve Scalise, Kevin McCarthy...


KING: ... and House Republicans are going -- yes.


BASH: But bigger question is the Senate, because that's where this started. And Mitch McConnell has been resistant.

BORGER: Exactly.

GREGORY: I just think that you the question of whether this has been a slow-motion Saturday Night Massacre, again, I'm trying to think this through.

What made the Saturday Night Massacre so surprising is that it was a massacre all at once.

TAPPER: Right.

GREGORY: The president could have shut this investigation down. He could have fired Rosenstein and had a basis to do it based on the reporting that came out of "The New York Times."

We have -- there's a reason why he didn't do it or get rid of Sessions before now. Presumably, one of those reasons would be that he was worried about doing it before the midterms. So you have to believe he at least holds on to the idea that there is some risk, that if he were to actually completely shut down the investigation -- I think there's other things he could do -- that it would be a tremendous risk and could actually lead to his defeat in 2020.


Again, it's a theory. I may be naive. You may be right. I'm just -- I'm wondering whether there is a level of caution in him on this that he has actually exercised, despite what he's done.


TAPPER: I'm sorry. We will get to you in one second.

The guardrails that have been there include Speaker Ryan, soon to be former Speaker Ryan, telling him not to do it, Mitch McConnell.

GREGORY: Don McGahn.

TAPPER: Don McGahn, who is gone. Jeff Sessions obviously advocating for his own job. John Kelly.

He is surrounded by people telling him not to do it. And he's listened to them so far, but he has been getting rid of these guardrails.


GREGORY: Can I make one point, before you say that, just because you would appreciate this?


GREGORY: But the thing about Sessions too that's amazing, first supporter in the Senate, such a hard-line guy, what he understood that I think the president often forgets about the presidency is that his job as attorney general was bigger than him, right?

And it's bigger than the country. And he -- whether you like Sessions or not, he held up to that principle, and then he gets treated this way.


COATES: Jeff Sessions was politically emasculated from the very beginning.

And I think, obviously, it was a protracted Saturday Night Massacre. But I will not give the president credit to think that perhaps he is just now throwing caution to the wind.

He knows the midterms are over and the consequences to him politically are gone. But there is still hope, because Mueller anticipated this. Of course, he did, knowing that there was a chance that Rosenstein would not be his boss.

So, what do you got, Mueller? Time is up for you to take a protracted approach to this at this point.

BLITZER: And a lot of us are wondering what Rosenstein himself might do now, after he's been humiliated, for all practical purposes.

COATES: Right.

BLITZER: Evan Perez, you're getting some new information?


One of the big questions, obviously, given the fact that Matt Whitaker is -- or at least is expected to take over the investigation, the oversight of the Mueller investigation, the big question is whether the Justice Department Ethics Department and whether they -- the ethics people at the Justice Department tell him that because of some of the writings -- I think Laura Jarrett made some mention of some of the things he had previously written here at CNN -- whether that requires him to recuse himself.

And then the president has the same recusal problem all over again. So one of the things I think in the next couple of days we're going to be watching for is whether the ethics officials at the Justice Department tell Matt Whitaker that because of his previous comments, including, by the way, in -- last year on Don Lemon's show, he made comments about how an acting attorney general could come in and essentially reduce the budget for the Mueller investigation as a way to starve it of the resources, and in that way make it shut down.

So those are the comments that Matt Whitaker has made previously. He made them here on CNN. And those questions -- those comments are now going to come into play for the ethics officers at the Justice Department as they review whether he can indeed oversee the Mueller investigation.


BLITZER: Yes, let me just read one sentence from that article that he wrote, Matthew Whitaker, for CNN,, Mueller's investigation of Trump is going too far.

And it's very significant because he's now going to be in charge of overseeing the Mueller investigation -- quote -- "It is time for Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel."

TAPPER: Evan Perez, let me just ask you.

When Jeff Sessions sought advice from the ethics attorneys at the Department of Justice, and they told him he needed to recuse himself, that wasn't because of his opinion about the Russia investigation. It was because he had talked and met with Russian officials while he was a surrogate for the Trump campaign.

That's that's -- not legally binding, though, right? That's advice from ethics lawyers. He doesn't have to take it.

PEREZ: Right.

Well, the way the rules of the Justice Department are, Jake, is that, by and large, people accept that opinion, because if you don't accept it, then any decisions you make could be challenged, it becomes a legal problem for the department.

So that's the reason why, when you seek that ethics opinion, you respect it. And that's why Jeff Sessions himself has said he had no choice but to accept that, because anything that he did in oversight of the investigation would then be questionable because of that.

So, once you have the ethics opinion from the Justice Department, by and large, I mean, you generally have to accept it, simply because, again, it calls into question anything that you would touch that has to do with the investigation.

And so that's reason why I think it's going to be very interesting to see whether or not the writings and the comments that Whitaker has made in the past, whether those are enough for the ethics officers there at the Justice Department to say that he needs to recuse. Keep in mind, it's just his role here or his comments. It's any appearance of bias that might come into play. So people at the Justice Department are required to avoid any appearance of bias. So that's the big question that I think is going to be decided by the ethics officers.


The former Attorney General Eric Holder during the Obama administration just tweeted this.

And I will read it: "Anyone who attempts to interfere with or obstruct the Mueller inquiry must be held accountable. This is a red line. We are a nation of laws and norms, not subject to the self-interested actions of one man."

Very strong statement, Laura, from the former attorney general.

But, Pamela Brown, you're getting more reaction at the White House as well.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, Wolf, that some senior officials here at the White House were caught by surprise with the timing of this announcement, with the president asking for the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

And we're finding out more about how this all played out. In fact, a source telling my colleague Laura Jarrett it was the president's chief of staff, John Kelly, who called the attorney general this morning, the former attorney general, we should say -- he has now resigned, Jeff Sessions -- to tell him that he needed to submit his resignation letter.

So, the president himself did not even call his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to ask for the resignation letter. This was all before the press conference that the president had today, where he was asked about Jeff Sessions and what would happen to him.

And he sort of tap-danced around it, saying, essentially, I will get to that at a later date, but I didn't want to make any moves before the midterms.

And now we know that this had already happened even before the press conference, and it is pretty significant. We know, Wolf, that he has had discussions with Matt Whitaker in the past, the now acting attorney general, about taking on this role, but at the time those in the White House told the president that there could be issues where he would have to recuse himself because of his past writings and his past comments, as Evan pointed out, his comments about the Mueller probe and suggesting that his budget should be suppressed.

All of this, of course, will now be under scrutiny, and the White House knows that.

BLITZER: Yes, very -- as you were saying, Jake, the president, he may have had the phrase "You're fired" when he was a TV reality star, but in reality he doesn't like to personally fire anyone.

TAPPER: No, we don't have any examples of him actually doing it himself. He always has somebody else do it for him, whether it's Comey or Omarosa or whomever.

This is just another example of the president destroying basic norms when it comes to law and order. Earlier today, the president of the United States threatened Democrats if they intended to investigate his administration. He said that he would investigate them and he said -- and he thinks he's better at that game than they are, in a sense, in fact, threatening to use the FBI as a way of threatening Democrats who want to do their constitutional duty and investigate and conduct oversight.

And now we have the president of the United States, because of Jeff Sessions' recusal on the Russia investigation, he fires him.

BORGER: Can I just posit something here about the timing of this and why he did this?

And, David, you spent your whole night looking at the exit polls. One exit poll that struck me was that Bob Mueller's popularity was underwater. And, remember, his popularity had kind of gone up and then it went down. And in the exit polls last night, where was he at?

CHALIAN: Forty-six disapprove, 41 approve of the way he handled the investigation.

BORGER: Right, so his disapproval was higher. I'm sure the president noticed that poll on Bob Mueller.

And clearly he's been planning to do this, because he could use the Vacancies Reform Act and put someone in there for a couple hundred days, and sort of go around -- go around the Congress and may feel that he has public opinion on his side right now when it comes to -- when it comes to Bob Mueller.

COATES: That's why Jeff Sessions is so witty in a way in this, because you're right about the Vacancy Reform Act, that he can appoint somebody if they resign for about 210 days, right, or until the next Congress lapses in January, or you could have the recess appointment.

I think the Senate has been out for at least 10 days. It could qualify. But Jeff Sessions that actually -- you can't force the firing of the person. They have to actually truly resign. That's kind of the question in the law.

So when Jeff Sessions talks about, at your request, I am submitting a resignation, he's almost signaling to his colleagues in the Senate and the House to say, remember your old friend and the rule of law? Well, we know the Vacancies Reform Act says I actually have to really resign. Otherwise, it would force the Saturday Night Massacre again.

So it may be that was more than simply a comment on, I am not going of my own accord, but also a signaling of, excuse me, it's not just bucking the norm. There's a protocol in place under the act itself. TAPPER: Yes, I want to bring in Pamela Brown at the White House now.

She has some new information -- Pamela.

BROWN: I just spoke to a source close to the president who tells me that the idea of the new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, ending or suppressing the Russia probe is not part of the plan as of now.

The feeling here at the White House and among the president's legal team is, they want this to wrap up and they feel like they're on the homestretch. We know that Mueller's team has submitted questions to the president and they have been looking at those questions.


And the expectation is that Robert Mueller will submit a report to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about his findings before the end of the year.

And so we're sort of in that window now where they expect this to wrap up. And the plan, as of now -- and, of course, as we know, it can all change -- is for there to be no interference in terms of the Russia probe and this new acting attorney general.

BLITZER: Yes, and I just want to point out that when he was interviewed by Don Lemon in July of 2017, Whitaker, who's now going to be in charge of the Russia investigation, said this: "So I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment, and that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt."

TAPPER: Well, we can't say we weren't warned.


TAPPER: I mean, he said it to Don Lemon and then, magically, President Trump has decided to put him as acting attorney general.

So, I mean, this idea that sources -- and I'm sure Pamela's sources are believing what they're saying -- that that's not the plan as of right now to limit and curtail the Mueller investigation, I'm sure it isn't the plan, their plan, as of right now.

But who knows what President Trump will do in 15 minutes?

CHALIAN: No doubt about it.

Laura used the word witty. Is that you -- you described Jeff Sessions?

COATES: I tried. Clever?



CHALIAN: I just want to highlight a piece of Mitch McConnell's statement on this, another glowing statement about Jeff Sessions, former colleague, dedicated public servant.

Ends with this line of the statement. "I wish him well and look forward to working with him in any future endeavors."

Doug Jones, the Democrat from Alabama, in for Jeff Sessions, is up for reelection in 2020. And wouldn't it be the sweetest revenge for Jeff Sessions to actually run for the Senate again, assuming that Alabama behaves like Alabama behaves politically, gets elected back to the United States Senate, and becomes a thorn in this president's side.


KING: Will he get a MAGA rally in Alabama?

CHALIAN: It just is a really interesting line here that we may not be done from Senator McConnell's perspective with Jeff Sessions.

BLITZER: Well, let's get some more reaction from Capitol Hill right now.

You make a good point, as you always do, David.

Manu Raju and Sunlen Serfaty are standing by. They're both getting reaction.

Sunlen, first to you. What are you hearing?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, Wolf, on Capitol Hill, still digesting this information.

This, of course, was something that it was talked about for many weeks and months leading up to Election Day. But I think certainly the timing is taking many people by surprise. The immediate reaction certainly coming from Democrats is, as we have been discussing on air, the concern over what this means, potentially, for Bob Mueller's investigation.

And that's what we heard from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer just a few minutes ago. He says he finds the timing of this very suspect and he said that this certainly -- he hopes and believes that this would spark a constitutional crisis, he says, if this was just would limit or this is the first step in potentially pushing towards ending or limiting the Mueller investigation.

Here's more of what he had to say:



Well, I would say this. I have just heard the news, but I would say this. Protecting Mueller and his investigation is paramount. It would create a constitutional crisis.


SERFATY: Now, meantime, we all are also hearing from House Democrats too.

Jerry Nadler, Congressman Nadler, he's the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, who stands to likely indeed be that chair next January when that new Congress is sworn in. He said he wants to hold the administration accountable here. He wants to know, of course, why the specific change and specifically who has authority over the special counsel?

And, certainly, as Congress continues to react, the discussion very quickly, very likely will turn to what legislation potentially can be put in place and can be proposed again to potentially protect the special counsel?

And you will remember that this is something that a bipartisan group of senators brought before Mitch McConnell earlier in the year. And he said at that point that he did not think this was necessary, so he was not going to bring such legislation to the floor -- back to you guys.

BLITZER: Sunlen, stand by.

Manu Raju, you're also getting some reaction up on Capitol Hill. What are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republicans are actually meeting this news with a collective shrug of sorts, saying that they expected this happen, and not raising concerns about the prospects of taking up a new attorney general nominee, someone they probably they have to deal with the new Congress, when the Republicans will have more seats in the Senate.

Now, for weeks before, Republicans had been raising serious concerns about the prospect of removing Jeff Sessions.