Donald Trump hints that Jeff Sessions’ days as attorney general are numbered
The US president is stepping up his attacks against Sessions and appears to be laying the groundwork to fire the top US law enforcement official
President Donald Trump has been warring with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, since Sessions recused himself from the FBI investigation into Russia’s election-meddling, which has led to the mounting legal problems for Trump and his associates as special counsel Robert Mueller investigates potential collusion.
Now, after this week’s guilty plea from Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, the tax fraud conviction of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and news that the Trump organisation’s longtime chief financial officer may be cooperating with prosecutors, the president is stepping up his attacks against Sessions and appears to be laying the groundwork to fire the nation’s top law enforcement official.
In Twitter posts on Saturday morning, Trump again sought to distance himself from the Cohen case and implications that he did anything wrong, and he wrote: “Jeff Sessions said he wouldn’t allow politics to influence him only because he doesn’t understand what is happening underneath his command position. Highly conflicted Bob Mueller and his gang of 17 Angry Dems are having a field day as real corruption goes untouched. No Collusion!”
Jeff Sessions said he wouldn’t allow politics to influence him only because he doesn’t understand what is happening underneath his command position. Highly conflicted Bob Mueller and his gang of 17 Angry Dems are having a field day as real corruption goes untouched. No Collusion!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2018
Trump then posted remarks made by Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, on Friday when the senator was asked by Fox News about the acrimonious relations between Trump and Sessions: “Every President deserves an Attorney General they have confidence in. I believe every President has a right to their Cabinet, these are not lifetime appointments. You serve at the pleasure of the President.”
About 20 minutes later, Trump brought up his long-running complaint that Sessions and the FBI had not done a proper job of investigating the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s use of private emails while she was secretary of state.
Referring to a Fox report on the email scandal, Trump wrote: “Big story out that the FBI ignored tens of thousands of Crooked Hillary Emails, many of which are REALLY BAD. Also gave false election info. I feel sure that we will soon be getting to the bottom of all of this corruption. At some point I may have to get involved!”
Whether his comment that he may get personally involved was referring to Sessions was not clear, but the latest Twitter posts reflect the president’s swelling agitation at the continuing and widening investigation by Mueller.
And in citing Graham’s remarks, Trump may have decided to use that opening to remove Sessions. Trump has made clear he wants to shut down the special counsel investigation, or at least refocus it on his political enemies, and Sessions is his biggest obstacle right now.
Big story out that the FBI ignored tens of thousands of Crooked Hillary Emails, many of which are REALLY BAD. Also gave false election info. I feel sure that we will soon be getting to the bottom of all of this corruption. At some point I may have to get involved!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2018
But such a move would have major legal and political repercussions, raising the prospect to obstruction of justice and further jeopardising several vulnerable Republicans in the midterm elections.
Democrats are demanding Congress pass legislation that shields the special counsel investigation from being disbanded by Trump or his administration. Republican leaders are balking on advancing it.
The Republicans have argued throughout the investigation that they are confident Trump would not try to interfere with it, and thus, they said, legislation protecting Mueller was unnecessary. Now, the president has complicated matters for them.
Graham, a senior senator who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was among some other Republican lawmakers who had warned Trump against firing Sessions, as that could compromise the Mueller investigation. Graham said in the summer that there would be “holy hell to pay” if Trump took such action.
But in reversing course this week, Graham said that while Sessions is a “fine man” and “has been a good attorney general,” his working relationship with Trump was neither sustainable nor profitable for the nation. The president is “entitled to an attorney general he has faith in,” he said.
Sessions, the former Republican senator from Alabama and once one of Trump’s biggest supporters on Capitol Hill, earlier in the week fired back at Trump’s criticisms by saying that as long as he is attorney general, the Justice Department’s “actions will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action.”
Trump’s own potentially legal and political troubles mounted this week after Cohen, his longtime fixer, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to eight counts, including violations of campaign finance laws that involved hush money payments to two women who claimed they had had affairs with Trump.
Cohen said that he had acted “in coordination with and at the direction of” a man, clearly identifiable as Trump, “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016.
On the same day, a jury found Manafort guilty on eight counts of tax evasion and bank fraud. The Cohen case has put the spotlight on the Trump organisation’s finances, which could imperil the president and his family.