Republican senators grew increasingly vocal in their warnings to President Donald Trump if he fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions, including threats not to vote for a replacement.
Sen. Ben Sasse came to the floor Thursday afternoon to read into the Congressional Record the statement that Sessions, a former Alabama senator well-liked by his former colleagues, issued in response to criticism from Trump.
Sessions was highlighting the independence of the Justice Department, and Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, wanted it to be perfectly clear that he would have the attorney general’s back.
“Bizarrely, there are people in this body now talking like the attorney general will be fired, should be fired, I’m not sure how to interpret the comments of the last couple of hours,” Sasse said. “I would just like to say, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, and as a member of this body, 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 is executing his job, rather than choosing to act in a partisan hack.”
“The attorney general should not be fired for acting honorably and for being faithful to the rule of law,” Sasse said.
The Sasse floor speech came about an hour after Sen. Susan Collins told reporters that she would discourage Trump from ousting Sessions, given the president’s repeated criticism over his decision to step aside from the investigation of Russian election meddling (ultimately leading to the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III).
“It certainly would send the wrong message,” the Maine Republican said. “Because the basis of the president’s criticism of the attorney general is that he recused himself, appropriately so, from the Russia investigation.”
“I don’t see the president being able to get someone else confirmed as attorney general were he to fire Jeff Sessions,” she said.
Earlier in the day, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is likely in line to become Judiciary chairman in 2019 if Republicans maintain control of the Senate, suggested that Sessions could be replaced after the November elections.
“The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in,” Graham told reporters. “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.”
But Graham also said, “replacing him before the election to me would be a nonstarter.”
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