Pam Bondi may well have emerged as Donald Trump’s first pick to replace Jeff Sessions anyway, but the mess unfolding in Florida may have given her an edge. Politico’s Marc Caputo and Anni Karni hear that Trump has begun relying on Bondi’s analysis to navigate the developments in the Lack of Sunshine State. That can only help Bondi move up the list of nominees for the next Attorney General — or perhaps another Cabinet position:
For the longtime close friend of Trump’s, the timing of the Florida recount, which the president has seized on to push unsupported theories about widespread voter fraud, offers a new chance to be front and center in his mind while he is also reorganizing his Cabinet and quickly shedding officials he has grown weary of. …
Throughout the early days of the transition and administration, Bondi pointedly refused to talk about her discussions with the administration, although she told some close associates she wasn’t interested in a job that would be a step down from her current role as the elected chief legal officer of the nation’s third most populous state.
But with a major cabinet shuffle underway — Trump is looking for replacements for both his attorney general and his Homeland Security secretary — Bondi’s name is being talked about again.
“He trusts her,” said Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser who lives in Florida. “They’ve always had an excellent personal rapport. She’s got a good TV presence; she’s very telegenic and that’s important to the president.”
Biondi’s name has already come up for the empty AG position, although not as prominently as Chris Christie’s. Of all the political picks to replace Sessions, Bondi might be the least troublesome in terms of the Senate confirmation process. Caputo and Karni report that the idea of Bondi as AG has gotten some pushback within the White House, apparently related to demands she made when they reached out for an earlier position in the administration. Another source tells them it wouldn’t matter, though, if Trump really wants her in the position. “If Trump could snap his fingers,” the source says, “she would be Attorney General tomorrow.”
Caputo and Karni raise another possibility, one that opened up this week. Kirstjen Nielsen is apparently on the way out at Homeland Security, according to several media outlets. Bondi might make a good fit there, and would still have the direct access to the president that she demanded in the earlier. That seems more of a stretch, however; Bondi’s experience fits the DoJ better than Homeland Security, although it certainly overlaps into it. She may not be too eager to take over the immigration-enforcement portfolio either, given Trump’s expectations of results and the grim reality of existing law.
From Trump’s perspective, Bondi should be an ideal candidate for the AG position, if Bondi can get through a Senate confirmation hearing. He’d have to consult with Mitch McConnell first to make sure, but it gives him precisely what he wants — a close ally at the DoJ with the resumé that demonstrates undeniable qualifications for the job. If Bondi’s serving as sherpa in the Florida debacle, that’s going to keep the DoJ more in mind than Homeland Security, too.