A few months ago, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the FBI's Russia investigation, so Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein became the Acting Attorney General for purposes of the Russia investigation. And Rosenstein appointed a special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, to oversee the investigation. Now the Washington Post is reporting that the White House is considering either firing Attorney General Sessions, or asking him to resign, as "part of a strategy to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and end his investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election".

My question is, what would happen if President Trump either fired Sessions or Sessions resigned? Who would oversee the Russia investigation? At least temporarily, I assume Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein would become Acting Attorney General, not just for the Russia investigation but for the entire Department of Justice. But what would happen once Trump appoints a new Attorney General to replace Sessions? Would the new Attorney General take over the Russia investigation from Rosenstein, or would Rosenstein continue to be Acting Attorney General for purposes of Russia investigation indefinitely?

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    Comment: the danger here is if the politically inexperienced Trump tries to meddle in this - that will be his downfall. Best to keep Mueller independent, and let him find whatever he can. I point back to Nixon and Watergate - he wasn't hounded out of office for authorizing the burglary - he probably didn't even know about what amounted to a silly prank - they had the election in the bag. Nixon was done in by trying to cover it up. Trump still struggles with the great paradigm shift thrust on him - no, as president, you can't just shoot your big mouth off.
    – tj1000
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 16:30
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    @tj1000 - Not sure that he'd learn from experience, necessarily (might be less about inexperience vs. not caring). The hubris is pretty strong with that one. But your point is one that has been repeatedly proven by history.... then again, you'd have to care about history to learn from that, too. When people think the rules are for little people (plenty of examples on all points of the political spectrum), they think they can lie and weasel their way out, and the fall gets worse and worse. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 19:03
  • "At least temporarily, I assume Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein would become Acting Attorney General, not just for the Russia investigation but for the entire Department of Justice." Not necessarily. I believe that under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, the President can also choose any other Senate-confirmed official to be Acting Attorney General.
    – user102008
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 4:31
  • @user102008 For how long? Can the President keep an Acting Attorney General indefinitely? Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 4:34
  • @KeshavSrinivasan: The act has a time limitation. It's somewhat complicated but it's 210 days, or 210 days after the Senate rejects confirmation of the person, or something like that.
    – user102008
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 4:37

2 Answers 2


The new Attorney-General will take over the investigation unless the new AG recuses himself too.

This is because Jeff Sessions recused himself and that does not mean that all future AG need to recuse themselves.

The special counsel is overseen by the AG, the Deputy AG only took over the investigation because the AG recused himself.


EDIT TO REFLECT QUESTION CHANGES - If you are talking about who calls the shots on specific decisions impacting the investigation, since Sessions is recused, I'd expect nothing to change, under a normal and ethical administration. He's not currently running the investigation.

They've already appointed an independent counsel, Robert Mueller, so unless they're looking to obstruct the investigation, I'd expect a new appointee (again, assuming even the most minimal of ethical standards) to allow Mueller to continue to do his work.

If you are discussing who would ultimately take over determination of allowing Mueller to operate as an independent counsel or to remove him, you really can't tell. Technically, a new AG would have that power. However, technically, the current one has that power as well. Sessions recused himself, which he really had to since he had his own contacts, but a new AG coming in might be viewed as being complicit in an obstruction of justice if they tried to short-circuit or take over an independent investigation.

You might have someone appointed specifically to kill the investigation, which opens a whole additional can of worms, without closing the current one, if they act like that.

You might have someone come in and recuse themselves, also, to avoid any actual or appearance of obstruction.

What should happen would be opinion-based, but the AG or acting AG would have that ultimate authority, just as the current one does.

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    Whether this is a normal and ethical administration is left as an exercise for the reader. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 15:32
  • By the way, this isn't really an answer to the question, so it's better posted as a comment. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 15:34
  • @KeshavSrinivasan - Nonsense. The question asks who would run the Russia investigation. Since none of the people named in the question is actually running the investigation, nor do they have a hand in any decisions about how it is run (independent counsel) and Robert Mueller is, "Mueller would continue/run the investigation" absolutely answers the question. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 15:38
  • I didn't ask who would run it, I'm asking who would take over oversight of the investigation from Rod Rosenstein. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 15:42
  • @KeshavSrinivasan - you need to edit the title of you question, then, because that's not what it says. Also, you need to define "oversee," because all decision-making authority has been ceded to Mueller. He answers really to no one. Though he can be removed, altogether, he has final word on all decisions. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 15:45

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