The end is finally nigh for Jeff Sessions, says one of his previously staunch defenders. Lindsey Graham had threatened “holy hell” a year ago if Donald Trump fired his Attorney General, but last week began dropping big hints that his position had changed — and that of other Senate Republicans, too. On NBC’s Today show this morning, Graham explicitly called for Trump to replace Sessions … after the midterms, of course:
“This relationship [between Trump & Sessions] is beyond repair…You have to replace him [Sessions] w/ somebody who is highly qualified & will committ to the Senate to allow Mueller to do his job.” @LindseyGrahamSC explains why his opinion of AG Jeff Sessions has changed pic.twitter.com/hrGAFoCA6K
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) August 28, 2018
“The President has lost confidence in Jeff Sessions. I’m telling you what everybody in the country knows, this is a dysfunctional relationship, we need a better one,” the South Carolina Republican said in an interview on NBC News’ “Today” show. …
“But we need an attorney general that can work with the President, that can lead the Department of Justice. This relationship is beyond repair, I think,” Graham said. “I’m not asking him to be fired, but the relationship is not working.”
The reason, Graham tells Today, is that the rift between Sessions and Trump goes “much deeper” than the recusal, although Graham declined to elaborate. “We won’t say on this show, but it’s a pretty deep breach,” was as far as Graham was willing to go in public. It’s tough to imagine a policy disagreement between the two that would go deeper than the recusal, especially since they’ve been sympatico on the most controversial policy of full enforcement of border laws. It sounds like a personal dislike that has reached intense proportions, which isn’t exactly a surprise after months of public castigation from Trump.
That’s why the mystery hasn’t been “Will Jeff Sessions get fired?” It’s been when the hammer will drop. Up until last week, Senate Republicans made it clear that they won’t stand for any action against the Attorney General on the basis of his recusal from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. That resistance has started to erode, likely because of the poisonous atmosphere that has become undeniable.
The timing on this is curious, though. Sessions refused to respond to the baiting by Trump for months, finally slapping back publicly last week (and somewhat indirectly) after a long stretch of very direct criticism and insults from the president. Almost immediately afterward, Graham reverses his previous position and begins hinting that Sessions has to go. He’s not wrong, perhaps, but it seems that Sessions has some fair-weather friends in the upper chamber.
However, just because Graham has softened on a change at the DoJ doesn’t mean he’s softened on Mueller:
Graham suggested that Sessions needs to be replaced with “somebody who is highly qualified and will commit to the Senate to allow” special counsel Robert Mueller to “do his job.” …
“Is there somebody who’s highly qualified that has the confidence of the President, will also understand their job is to protect Mueller? Yes, I think we can find that person after the election if that’s what the President wants,” Graham argued.
Not only is that just a political reality, it’s likely going to be a moot issue. Mueller is probably coming close to the end of his efforts and will start drafting a report soon. Once that happens, Mueller’s status won’t make any difference. The advantage of having a new AG will be that he or she will get the report rather than Rod Rosenstein, but that’ll only be true if the position changes fast enough to beat the Mueller clock. Otherwise, the change in the AG position will almost certainly be too late to impact Mueller, but it would allow for a fresh start at the DoJ after two years of dark clouds and personal invective.
The biggest question might be who’d want the job.