“I think it would be bad for the country, it would be bad for the president, it would be bad for the Department of Justice for [Sessions] to be forced out under these circumstances,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said following Trump’s latest attack on the attorney general who the president picked for the job.
Trump complained on Thursday that Sessions “never took control” of the Justice Department, a comment reigniting speculation about the fate of one of his earliest and most fervent supporters. It also stoked fears that the president was attempting to influence Russia investigation, which is overseen by the DOJ.
“I put in an attorney general who never took control of the Justice Department. Jeff Sessions, never took control of the Justice Department. It’s sort of an incredible thing,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” He lamented once more how his attorney general had recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, the probe now headed by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Sessions, who typically ignores Trump’s taunts, responded with a rare statement issued before he arrived at the White House Thursday afternoon for a meeting on criminal justice reform. He defended DOJ prosecutors and touted his “unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda.”
More pointedly, he said, “While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
As other Senate Republicans defended and praised Sessions ― a former GOP senator from Alabama who is still well-regarded by many of his former colleagues ― at least one expressed doubt about the attorney general’s job prospects.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters that Trump is “very likely” to fire Sessions after November’s midterm elections.
“I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice,” Graham said, according to Bloomberg News.
Other Republicans standing by Sessions included Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. “I like the president, I’m one of his strongest supporters... 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,” Hatch told reporters.
He added that at this point, it would be “very difficult” for the Senate to confirm a replacement for Sessions.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a key moderate, similarly said it would be unwise for Trump to oust Sessions.
“I don’t see the president being able to get anyone else confirmed as attorney general were he to fire Jeff Sessions,” Collins said.
Trump’s public feud with Sessions has gone on for more than a year. The attorney general even wrote up a resignation letter at one point last year, but DOJ has refused to release it, saying it would violate his privacy.