Washington • President Donald Trump has been a vocal critic of his own pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and has repeatedly hinted at firing him, possibly after the midterm elections.
Beyond concerns that ousting Sessions could add to Trump’s possible legal woes with the ongoing special counsel investigation, it may trigger another crisis: Could someone else take the gig?
Among those mentioned as possibilities are Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, John Cornyn of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, all of whom say they’re not interested.
With a Senate divided along party lines — the GOP holds a slim majority — trying to confirm a new attorney general could be challenging, especially because many Republican senators have warned Trump against jettisoning Sessions, a former Alabama senator who was an early Trump supporter.
It would be “very difficult” for the Senate to replace Sessions, Sen. Orrin Hatch warned last month.
“I like the president, I’m one of his strongest supporters,” Hatch said. “But Jeff deserves to be treated much more fairly. He was the first one to support this president. And the president ought to recognize that.”
Trump has escalated his attacks on Sessions, whom he blames for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, prompting the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller’s team on Friday got guilty pleas from former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, one of five people in the president’s orbit to have pleaded to criminal charges stemming from the expansive probe. Manafort has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of his plea agreement.
Trump has called the probe a “witch hunt” and blames Sessions for not putting a halt to it.
“I have never seen anything so Rigged in my life,” Trump wrote on Twitter in August. “Our A.G. is scared stiff and Missing in Action.”
If Trump were to fire Sessions, senators might be more likely to confirm someone from within their own ranks rather than an outsider they don’t know as well.
Lee, a former assistant U.S. attorney who has cast himself as a constitutional expert, doesn’t seem interested in the job.
“We already have an attorney general and Senator Lee is very happy serving the people of Utah in the Senate,” his spokesman, Conn Carroll, said.
Cornyn echoed that line.
“We already have an attorney general,” Cornyn said, according to Politico. “I love my job.”
Graham, too, said no when asked if he'd be interested.
“I like being a senator,” he told Politico this week. “There are plenty of more qualified people than me. Bunches of them, thousands.”