Top Republicans are sending a direct warning to President Donald Trump: Don’t fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told CNN Thursday morning.
Graham described as “chilling” a tweet posted by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley late Wednesday in which the Iowa Republican said there was “no way” his panel would consider the nomination of a replacement for Sessions.
“There will be no confirmation hearing for a new attorney general in 2017,” Graham said.
Trump has spent several days attacking his attorney general, both in interviews and on Twitter, over Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and allowing a special prosecutor to be appointed.
Despite questioning his attorney general’s loyalty publicly and repeatedly, the president so far doesn’t appear ready to fire Sessions, and Sessions has indicated he plans to stay put. But Trump’s repeated complaints about the attorney general’s decisions and priorities have sparked deep concern among Republicans, particularly in the Senate, where Sessions served for two decades.
White House Called
A number of Republicans have called White House officials -- and even Trump personally -- to warn against removing Sessions, according to a Senate GOP aide who asked not to be identified discussing the private conversations. Their message has been that Sessions is universally liked on Capitol Hill and that removing him would be one of Trump’s biggest mistakes as president.
Graham also warned Trump against any efforts to remove the special prosecutor appointed in the Russia probe, former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
“Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency,” Graham said on CNN.
Graham said in a separate interview on Fox News that he is preparing new legislation that would require the dismissal of a special counsel to be reviewed by the courts "to protect against an abuse of power by anybody." Asked whether such a bill would be bipartisan, he said, "Oh yeah."
The president has grown more frustrated as Mueller’s investigation into ties between Trump associates and Russian meddling in the 2016 election has broadened to include his financial dealings. That anger has boiled over in public most visibly in the form of attacks on Sessions.
Trump has called Sessions "beleaguered" in a tweet. He also tweeted, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”
The Justice Department responded quickly Thursday after Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s newly appointed communications director, complained that his financial disclosure form was leaked, even though that information isn’t classified.
“We have seen an astonishing increase in the number of leaks of classified national security information in recent months,” Sarah Isgur Flores, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. “We agree with Anthony that these staggering number of leaks are undermining the ability of our government to function and to protect this country. Like the Attorney General has said, ‘whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail,’ and we will aggressively pursue leak cases wherever they may lead.”
Sessions has remained largely quiet in the wake of Trump’s verbal assault, but is scheduled to give an interview Thursday evening on Fox News.
Sessions, 70, said last week that he would continue to “wholeheartedly” support Trump’s priorities. “We love this job. We love this department. And I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate,” he said.
--With assistance from Kevin Cirilli
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