This won’t come as a surprise: Donald Trump has spoken with his advisors and personal attorneys this month about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Over the past week, the President has stepped up his verbal assault on Sessions, seemingly in response to a veritable deluge of bad news on the legal front. In the past week alone, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts, Paul Manafort was convicted and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was granted immunity by federal prosecutors. All of that as Rudy Giuliani continues to fret publicly about what Robert Mueller may or may not have in terms of evidence to support an obstruction case against the President.
That obstruction case likely hinges at least in part on Trump’s efforts to pressure Sessions into stepping in to undermine the special counsel probe. Last month, the New York Times reported that Mueller may be using Trump’s social media activity to support the contention that the President is trying to intimidate witnesses, one of whom is Sessions himself.
That’s what makes the President’s recent tweets about the Department of Justice so bizarre – he knows Mueller is angling to use those tweets as evidence and yet the President continues to tweet about Sessions, effectively creating more evidence where none might have existed previously.
Revelations that White House Counsel Don McGahn cooperated “extensively” with Mueller on the mistaken belief that Trump was trying to set him (McGahn) up to take the fall for obstruction exacerbated the President’s paranoia.
Late last week, Trump questioned Sessions’ integrity in an interview with Fox News and, seemingly emboldened by the apparent complicity of Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, went on to demand (again) that the Justice Department launch investigations into a long list of political rivals. On Sunday, Trump accused Sessions of not knowing “what’s going on” and suggested the White House “might have to get involved”.
For his part, the Attorney General pushed back, insisting that as long as he’s at the helm, the DOJ will never be beholden to the politics of Trump or anyone else.
The idea here is to get rid of Sessions and, if necessary, Rod Rosenstein, on the way to shutting the Mueller probe down or otherwise curtailing it.
Well now, according to the Washington Post, Trump is talking to confidants about whether or not he can get away with firing Sessions.
“[Trump’s] attorneys concluded that they have persuaded him — for now — not to make such a move while the special-counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign is ongoing,” the Post says, citing three people familiar with the discussions.
The Post also flags comments from Republicans other than Graham and Grassley. Here are few examples they cite:
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.): “We wish the best for him, but as any administration would show, Cabinet members seldom last the entire administration, and this is clearly not an exception.”
Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) “Nothing lasts forever. [The President and Sessions have] a toxic relationship.”
The danger here is that if Trump can get a new AG confirmed, that person would then be in a position to take over the Mueller probe on the way to keeping the conclusions secret from the public and, potentially, from Congress.
If that sounds like an inherently nefarious setup, that’s because it is. Here’s what Trump supporter-turned staunch critic Bob Corker (who last year suggested that the President is going to stumble into “World War III“) had to say about this:
My sense is the fix is in.
It sure is, Bob.
The only downside here for Trump is that a move against Sessions would only add to the long list of evidence to support an obstruction charge. According to the Post, both Giuliani and Sekulow “advised Trump that Mueller could interpret any action as an effort to obstruct justice and thwart the investigation — already a major focus of the inquiry.”
Other lawmakers agree with Corker that this is laughably transparent. For instance, Sen. Sherrod Brown said this:
I wouldn’t trust this president to put someone in place [who] wouldn’t an hour after he’s sworn in fire Mueller.
Right. And this is why I continue to think that Trump will be indicted. You can shout “precedent” and “decorum” all you like, but this is so blatant that in the end, it seems like the only way to ensure the public isn’t left in the dark is to indict a sitting President, Giuliani’s protestations be damned.