As Republican Support Falters, Jeff Sessions’ Future As Attorney General Is In Doubt

Sessions' firing would have wide-ranging ramifications for the Mueller probe.
President Donald Trump sits with Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony in Quantico, Va. Dec. 15, 2017 (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

President Donald Trump sits with Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony in Quantico, Va. Dec. 15, 2017 (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The Rantt Rundown: Day 586 of the Trump presidency

The Headline: The Washington Post reported that President Trump has privately broached the prospect of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions in recent weeks. Trump’s lawyers reportedly advised against it, telling him that Special Counsel Robert Mueller would see it as further evidence of obstruction of justice. This news came amid an apparent surrender in the Republican Party. What was once a red line now appears to be nonexistent.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-KY) has signaled that since Trump has lost confidence in Sessions, he’s open to the prospect of him being replaced. Graham originally pointed to this as a red line, warning of consequences in the case Trump fires Sessions. Graham has since flip-flopped. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) went as far as to say he has time for hearings to confirm a new Attorney General. But Graham has claimed that it would “create havoc” to do this before the midterms.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has struck a different tune, stating on Tuesday, “I have total confidence in the attorney general. I think he ought to stay exactly where he is.”

The Context: The firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions would have wide-ranging ramifications for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation because the appointee would have the power to shut down the probe, a power Sessions no longer has. President Trump has repeatedly expressed his disdain for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. President Trump has reportedly asked Sessions to un-recuse on multiple occasions, and he’s publicly said that if he knew Sessions would recuse himself, he wouldn’t have nominated him. And on Twitter, President Donald Trump has given what appeared to be the closest thing to a public order to end Mueller’s investigation by saying Sessions  “should stop” the investigation.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who President Trump has long considered firing, would have to be the one to shut down the Russia investigation. Rosenstein has thus far allowed Mueller to do his job uninterrupted, and this has earned him Trump’s ire as well given the reports that Trump considered firing him.

The Analysis: Needless to say, Trump’s obsession with Sessions’ recusal is of interest to Mueller in his obstruction of justice probe. Mueller is also examining Trump’s tweets about Jeff Sessions. Let’s break down why his obsession is potentially incriminating:

Jeff Sessions was nominated for Attorney General in November 2016…that was before the public was aware the Russia investigation even existed and before FBI Director James Comey revealed the Trump campaign was under investigation. So, what President Trump is essentially saying is that he wouldn’t have nominated Sessions for Attorney General if he knew he wouldn’t protect him from an investigation the public didn’t know existed yet. If President Trump’s claim is true, it appears that Trump was aware there was underlying wrongdoing in his campaign that he expected Sessions to cover up. Otherwise, his claim wouldn’t make sense.

Overall, this adds to the case Mueller is building. Trump’s intention has long been clear, by his own admission, that he wants the Russia investigation to come to an end. Trump knows that it would be politically toxic to fire Rosenstein or attempt to fire Mueller, so he appears to see replacing Sessions as a backdoor way to obstruct the probe. The replacement AG could limit Mueller’s scope, decide how to handle Mueller’s reports, or shut down the probe outright. The fact that Senate Republicans are largely surrendering to Trump’s effort to oust Sessions means they’re capitulating to Trump’s interference in the Justice Department and are complicit in his coverup. The midterms just became much more crucial to our democracy.

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Rundown // Donald Trump / Jeff Sessions / Obstruction Of Justice / Republican Party