President Trump and his advisers are privately discussing the possibility of replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and some confidants are floating prospects who could take his place were he to resign or be fired, according to people familiar with the talks.Members of Trump’s circle, including White House officials, have increasingly raised the question among themselves in recent days as the president has continued to vent his frustration with the attorney general, the people said.Replacing Sessions is viewed by some Trump associates as potentially being part of a strategy to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and end his investigation of whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.
One might think such a step — firing Sessions or, worse, firing Sessions in order to fire Mueller — even for Trump would be self-destructive in the extreme. Sessions is popular on the far right — much more popular than Trump, I would suggest. (In some respects the far right embraced Trump so it could get an attorney general like Sessions and a Supreme Court justice like Neil Gorsuch.) If anything could finally bring Republicans to their senses and provoke them to begin seriously considering impeachment, firing Sessions and then Mueller might just do it.
Not only would Sessions’s firing likely provoke an uprising on the right but it also would free up Sessions to cooperate with the special counsel and, like former FBI director James B. Comey, feel unburdened by executive privilege. Given that Sessions may have some liability of his own (giving false statements to Congress in confirmation testimony, omitting Russian contacts on his security clearance form, participating in a scheme to fire Comey under false pretenses, etc.), he would have every incentive to be as forthcoming as possible with former Senate colleagues now investigating the administration and with the special counsel.
In short, getting fired might be the capstone of Sessions’s career. He could enjoy a new lease on (political) life, an opportunity for redemption.
Let’s face it, Sessions was an early and essential enabler of Trump. He rationalized and normalized Trump for conservatives, defended and encouraged unconstitutional measures (e.g., the Muslim ban, the attack on sanctuary cities) and, worst of all, joined in impugning the federal courts. (“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” he said about Judge Derrick Watson of a federal district court in Hawaii.) As things stand now, he’ll be remembered not as a senator but as a Trump facilitator, someone who helped send the GOP on the path to ruin.
But what about another distinction, a third act? Sessions could be the man who defended the rule of the law, the apolitical work of the Justice Department and FBI. He could be the witness under oath who explains former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn’s conduct and relays the president’s motive for firing Comey. In becoming an unsparing truth-teller (the John Dean of Trump’s Russia scandal), he’d restore his own reputation. He could prove to his critics that he is no political hack but rather someone who cares about the fair administration of justice.
So sure, Mr. President, go ahead and fire Sessions. That’ll move things along in a big way — although not in the direction Trump hopes.