When Rudy Giuliani walked into the Trump Hotel in Washington Monday night, people snapped to attention. Donald Trump has talked to friends recently about naming him the new Attorney General once he gets rid of the pesky current one, Jeff Sessions, who had the nerve to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
Giuliani brushed off the possibility, but there’s no saying that Trump couldn't corral the votes for a new A.G. If not the old-fashioned way, there’s always the chance for a recess appointment good until January 2019. All Trump needs is for the new official to serve long enough to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
However Sessions is replaced, it’s clear he’s on his way out. His recusal was in March but the urgency to remove him came just two weeks ago when it became clear to the White House that Mueller is going after Trump’s financials, including the tax returns he’s gone to great lengths to keep secret.
On Tuesday afternoon, Trump sounded like a disappointed dad dealing with potty training when he said “I am very disappointed with the attorney general, but we’ll see what happens,” adding that we wasn’t going to let him twist in the wind. Why he would evoke Watergate-era language is a mystery. Later, Trump added that the A.G. needed “to be much tougher" on leaks, "which are leaking like they've never leaked before." But Sessions may have a deadline to get that done, as Trump suggested he’d make his decision within 24 hours.
Unless Sessions can find a leaker overnight, his only choice may be how he goes: hold on and be asked to leave point blank or resign invoking the sudden desire to spend more time with his family. It depends on how much humiliation one man can take. Of all the indignities heaped upon Sessions, how hurtful must it have been for the Eagle Scout to have been left out of the Scout Jamboree Monday in West Virginia? Ask former press secretary Sean Spicer, a Mass-going Irish Catholic, how it felt to be left out of the president’s audience with the Pope. Sad.
It’s hard to have sympathy for Sessions unless you picture his old Eagle Scout uniform with the short brown pants and badges preserved in his attic in Alabama where he may soon be returning with his red Make America Great Again hat. After promising not to use Monday's event to talk politics, Trump used it to talk politics, including downgrading the 12-year old boys’ government from a swamp to a cesspool and informing worried Scouts that, believe him, they would soon be able to say Merry Christmas again.
With that assurance out of the way, along with props to the scouts for valuing loyalty, Trump threatened Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price beside him on stage ahead of Tuesday’s showdown in the Senate to replace Obamacare. Turning to face Price, Trump asked "By the way, you’re going to get the votes?" Back to his audience who hardly know who Price is, he said, “He better get 'em . . . ah, he better — otherwise, I'll say, ‘Tom, you're fired!'"
Trump coats his body-checks in a just-kidding veneer but he is not one to laugh or joke without purpose. Did you hear the one about Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who Trump's Pac preemptively ran negative ads against? Heller was sitting next to Trump at an arm-twisting session on health care last week when Trump put his hand on his arm and said, "This was the one we were worried about."
"Look," Trump continued as if Heller weren’t there. "He wants to remain a senator, doesn't he?"
A good lesson there for those considering crossing Trump. He's merciless once he gets going. Shame on Sessions for being "very weak on Hillary Clinton’s crimes," shame on him for not knowing the future, shame on him for being "beleaguered" when Trump has made him that way.
Like many a bully, Trump is better at calling names than pulling the trigger. For that, he may have given a broader portfolio than we know to his new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. His first act was to promise to fire any and all leakers and proceed to name the first to go on his first day on the job, assistant press secretary Michael Short. If the White House is composed of the Bloods and the Crips, Sharks and the Jets and gangs as yet unnamed then Reince Prebius, who’s been fired more often than the rifles in a 21-gun salute, has lost so many allies he could join Sessions in a support group.
There is some pushback against the latest chaos. A Trump favorite, Sen. Bob Corker, allowed that "there's just not a lot of progress happening" in Washington, having earlier noted a "downward spiral." Senator Lindsey Graham warned Trump he can’t use his Attorney General to punish a political opponent.
At his weekly press conference, though, apologist and Speaker Paul Ryan said that Sessions’ tenure is up to Trump. "The President gets to decide what his personnel is." True enough if he’s using personnel in the plural but not advisable if the Speaker is using it in the singular, given that the day before he warned against firing Mueller, which would be the purpose of firing Sessions. "I don't think many people are saying Bob Mueller is a person who is a biased partisan. He's really sort of anything but."
Presidents don’t go around dismissing their Attorney Generals. It doesn’t look good, as Richard Nixon found out. Scaramucci more or less confirmed on Hugh Hewitt's radio show Tuesday that the Sessions-Trump marriage could hardly go on given what's been said. He called the impending break-up "a divorce," which would be Trump's fourth.
Getting rid of Sessions leaves open the question of who would want to be Attorney General in Charge of Removing the Special Counsel, and possibly more than one? For that matter who wants to come and replenish the decimated press office or take Prebius’s job? Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMasters are rumored to be on the outs, with ritual humiliation to follow. Who would want to work for the administration that Corker, a former loyalist, now calls "incoherent" and where the test of how good a job you are doing is loyalty alone? In the next few days, we will find out.
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for the Daily Beast. She was formerly the first woman columnist at Time magazine, a columnist at Bloomberg View, a weekly panelist on CNN’s “Capital Gang” and managing editor at the New Republic. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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