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Special Counsel Director Robert Mueller and President Trump. Photos: Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call, Saul LoebAFP/Getty Images

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ abrupt resignation on Wednesday at the request of President Trump immediately raised questions about the fate of special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into potential Russian collusion and ties to Trump's 2016 campaign.

Driving the news: President Trump has elevated Justice Department chief of staff Matthew Whitaker to acting attorney general until a permanent replacement is confirmed. Whitaker has questioned the scope of Mueller's investigation.

The details: The deputy attorney general traditionally assumes the acting role as the country’s top law enforcement official upon such a departure.

  • Rosenstein has been overseeing the special counsel’s investigation after Sessions recused himself due to his close ties with the Trump campaign.
  • However, Whitaker will now assume control of the investigation, according to a DOJ prosecutor.
  • He had questioned the scope of the Mueller probe, arguing in a CNN op-ed last year that the special counsel had gone too far in explaining the Trump family’s finances.
“This would raise serious concerns that the special counsel’s investigation was a mere witch hunt.”

The big picture: Rosenstein has largely been seen as a barrier protecting the Mueller investigation from Trump’s interference. As Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes of the Lawfare Blog explain, Rosenstein "has assiduously defended the Mueller investigation, even as the president has decried it as a ‘witch hunt,’ even as congressional committees have pressed for unprecedented document releases by way of discrediting it."

What's next: With Democrats fresh off a midterm campaign victory in taking control of the House, they will continue to express their frustrations over Whitaker's new role and the urgent need for congressional action to protect Mueller. They've already warned that Whitaker's previous remarks about Mueller suggest he is unfit to oversee the investigation.

Go deeper

Exclusive: White House meeting with members of Problem Solvers Caucus

Members of the Problem Solvers Caucus discuss the COVID-19 relief bill in December. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Top White House officials will meet Wednesday with a bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers as the administration tries to enlist moderates to support the president's infrastructure proposal.

Why it matters: The meeting is something of an olive branch after President Biden's team courted groups of progressives to back the $2.2 trillion package.

36 mins ago - Health

The new vaccine threat is fear itself

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The FDA’s decision to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine has set off a chain reaction of fear — about the safety of the vaccine, and about whether the FDA is overreacting — that's causing unnecessary drama just as the vaccine effort is finally picking up speed.

The big picture: Throughout the pandemic, the public and the media, and sometimes even regulators, have struggled to keep risks in perspective — to acknowledge them without exaggerating them, and to avoid downplaying them because other people will exaggerate them.

Cryptocurrency giant Coinbase heads to Wall Street

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Coinbase, the country's largest cryptocurrency exchange, is expected to go public today at what could be a valuation north of $100 billion.

Why it matters: This gives crypto a Wall Street seal of legitimacy, after an early existence marred by ties to illicit goods.