On Thursday, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska cautioned President Trump against firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, hours after Trump publicly castigated Sessions for failing to “take control” of the Department of Justice.
“I just would like to say in public what I’ve been saying to my colleagues and a message that I just communicated to the president of the United States. And that is that it would be a very, very, very bad idea to fire the attorney general because he’s not executing his job as a political hack,” Sasse said on the Senate floor. “That is not the job of the attorney general. The attorney general’s job is to be faithful to the Constitution and to the rule of law.”
The comments came hours after Sessions issued a statement in response to Trump’s criticism that the attorney general’s decision to recuse himself from all matters related to Russian election interference amounted to a failure to properly lead the Justice Department.
“I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda—one that protects the safety and security and rights of the American people, reduces violent crime, enforces our immigration laws, promotes economic growth, and advances religious liberty,” Sessions wrote. “While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
Following Trump’s criticism and Sessions’s response, a number of Sasse’s Republican colleagues in the Senate openly entertained the possibility that the president would dismiss his attorney general in the near future.
“The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that’s qualified for the job, and 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,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) told reporters on Thursday, according to Bloomberg News. “Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”
Graham was joined by Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, who told Bloomberg he would consider taking up confirmation proceedings for Sessions’s replacement, departing from his previous claim that the Senate lacked the requisite time to confirm another attorney general.
Sasse appeared to target Graham and Grassley during his comments on the Senate floor.
“Bizarrely, there are people in this body now talking like the attorney general will be fired, should be fired,” Sasse said. “I’m not sure how to interpret the comments of the last couple of hours but . . . I find it really difficult to envision any circumstance where I would vote to confirm a successor to Jeff Sessions, if he is fired, because he’s executing his job, rather than choosing to act as a partisan hack.”
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