Attorney General
Trump and Sessions/latimes.com

President Donald Trump has fired the US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointed his Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker in an acting capacity.

The president had repeatedly criticised his top law enforcement official after he recused himself from the Russia investigation dogging the White House.

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Trump in a tweet said that Sessions will be temporarily replaced by his chief of staff, Whitaker, who has criticised the Russia inquiry.

“We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well!” Mr Trump wrote on Wednesday.

In an undated resignation letter, Sessions – a former Alabama senator who was an early supporter of Trump – made clear the decision to go was not his own.

“Dear Mr President, at your request I am submitting my resignation,” he wrote in an undated letter.

“Most importantly as my time as attorney general, we have restored and upheld the rule of law,” Sessions added, while thanking the Republican president.

Trump has repeatedly lambasted his top law enforcement official since Sessions stepped aside from the Russia investigation in March 2017, allowing his deputy Rod Rosenstein to lead an inquiry that has dogged the White House.

In July 2017 Trump told the New York Times: “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.”

Trump has at various times belittled Sessions as “beleaguered”, “VERY weak”, and “DISGRACEFUL”.

According to a White House official, Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly called Sessions before Trump’s combative press conference to discuss mid-term election results on Wednesday.