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August 25, 2018

Is it too early to start a new US Attorney General short list (or wish list)?

I think it is extremely unlikely that Prez Donald Trump will fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the mid-term elections in November, which are still more than 10 weeks away.  Nevertheless, as detailed in this Bloomberg piece headlined "Key Republicans Give Trump a Path to Fire Sessions After the Election," some key Senators are seemingly trying to make it easier for Prez Trump to consider replacing AG Sessions after the election:

Donald Trump, who’s long threatened to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, may have received a crucial go-ahead signal from two Republican senators with a key condition attached: wait until after the November elections.

Confronted with the criminal convictions this week of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, the president has only reaffirmed his open resentment that Sessions recused himself from what’s become a wide-ranging investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The pivotal message on Thursday came from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who oscillates between criticizing many of the president’s policies and defending a president who sometimes invites him to go golfing at a Trump-branded resort.  “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,” Graham told reporters.

But he added that forcing out Sessions before November “would create havoc” with efforts to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as well as with the midterm elections on Nov. 6 that will determine whether Republicans keep control of Congress.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, also changed his position on Thursday, saying in an interview that he’d be able to make time for hearings for a new attorney general after saying in the past that the panel was too busy to tackle that explosive possibility.

It wasn’t clear, though, whether the senators’ comments were intended to endorse a move on Sessions later, or to coax Trump out of taking precipitous action now.  And some senior Republican senators strongly rejected Graham’s seemingly impromptu fire-him-later idea.

Notably, Prez Trump this morning tweeted out Senator Graham's staement this way:

@LindseyGrahamSC “Every President deserves an Attorney General they have confidence in. I believe every President has a right to their Cabinet, these are not lifetime appointments. You serve at the pleasure of the President.”

I still think, for now, it is mostly a parlor game to imagine who Prez Trump might seek to replace AG Sessions.  But this game surely shapes my own rooting interest as a supporter of federal criminal justice and marijuana reforms.  If, say, Senator Tom Cotton were to be Prez Trump's pick to replace AG Sessions, I would be content with the status quo.  But if, say, Senator Cory Gardner were to be of interest to the President, then I would start rooting for AG Sessions to start packing up his office.  Of course, a perhaps more plausible pick might be someone like Senator Ted Cruz (especially if he were to lose his re-elction bid in November, which seems unlikely but possible).  And one has to wonder whether anyone could be confirmed by a divided Senate either in a lame-duck period or soon thereafter. 

Just for fun, I would be interested in hearing readers' creative possibilities for the next Attorney General, and I will start the game by throwing out two names just for kicks: Brian Sandoval and Dabney Friedrich.  I have no idea if either would have any interest in a position that is challenging even under the best circumstances, but I think both have just the right combination of experience, independence and "confirm-ability" to make them plausible possibilities.

Please play along, dear readers, in the AG short-list game.

August 25, 2018 at 10:27 AM | Permalink


Why not Douglas A. Berman? He has the support the Koch brothers, a key Trump constituency.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 25, 2018 10:51:19 AM

He will only pick someonw who promise to fire Mueller.

Posted by: Nancy | Aug 25, 2018 4:57:36 PM

Janet Reno lasted a long long time.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 25, 2018 7:32:49 PM

This is rich. Koch's have given money to many organizations that advocate for criminal justice reform including the ACLU and Cut#50. They did not support the Trump Presidency. I think they are used by democrats as a fundraising fixture.

As for Sessions replacement - Brian Sandoval looks interesting. He was promoted by Harry Reid for US District Court, maybe a little bi-partisan support. Aside from that - he's pretty darn stinking cute and very smart.
It appears that Dabney Friedrich upheld Mueller's authority - that may exempt her.

The most delicious episode of this epic event that I've seen lately was Lanny Davis defending Michael Cohen and then starting a Go-Fund-Me for his fee. Why doesn't this make our collective heads explode?

Posted by: beth | Aug 25, 2018 8:01:35 PM

Wow, we can really talk about Trump firing Sessions without really mentioning or condemning a move to fire Special Counsel Mueller? I hope if Trump fires Sessions to fire Mueller that he is impeached and has no chance to appoint a new Attorney General.

Posted by: Paul | Aug 26, 2018 10:11:07 AM

My vote is for Lindsey Graham. But if you want a worst case scenario: Joe Arpaio (nothing in the constitution says the AG has to be an attorney or cannot be a convicted felon?). The advantage in Graham is that he will definitely be replaced by a Republican, and probably one more pro-trump than Graham.

Posted by: Allan | Aug 27, 2018 12:10:52 PM

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