The Post reports that President Trump has privately revived his deliberations over whether to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the midterm elections, but was talked out of it by his lawyers:
His attorneys concluded that they have persuaded him — for now — not to make such a move while the special-counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign is ongoing, the people said.
But there is growing evidence that Senate Republicans, who have long cautioned Trump against firing Sessions, are now resigned to the prospect that he may do so after the November midterm elections — a sign that one of the last remaining walls of opposition to such a move is crumbling.
The lawyers who talked Trump out of this are Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow — his personal lawyers, who are representing him in his legal battle over special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. Which raises a very good question, posed here by Chris Hayes:
What’s interesting here is that there is a scenario under which it would be perfectly normal for the president to be consulting his personal lawyers over this. If Trump wanted to fire Sessions for substantive reasons unrelated to the Russia investigation — say, if he thought Sessions was doing a bad job in ways that are bad for the country — then Trump might ask his personal lawyers if they thought firing Sessions might create unfortunate appearances related to the Mueller probe.
“If this were a normal president, there would be a perfectly plausible defense of doing this,” Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told me. “If he thought Sessions had totally failed to adequately enforce, say, the securities laws, he might still want to check with his private counsel to make sure that he was avoiding the appearance of impropriety.”
But of course, we know that this isn’t the case. Because Trump has openly stated that he is furious with Sessions precisely because Sessions is not protecting him from the Russia investigation, and he has privately demanded that Sessions do just this. Which can only mean, of course, that Trump isn’t asking his personal lawyers about how to handle Sessions’s fate for appropriate reasons at all — indeed, it actually reveals in a new way the degree to which Trump is trying to politicize law enforcement on his own personal behalf.
“It is entirely inappropriate for the president to be consulting his personal attorneys on official government actions,” Susan Hennessey, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, told me. “By doing so, Trump makes obvious that his considerations in wanting to fire Sessions have nothing to do with Sessions’s job performance and everything to do with shutting down the Mueller investigation and otherwise co-opting the Justice Department for political purposes.”
The naked obviousness of all of this is putting Republicans in an awkward spot. Numerous Senate Republicans are making it publicly clear that they will not raise a serious fuss if and when Trump does fire Sessions. But they can’t say openly that they are fine with Trump firing Sessions for the explicit purpose of installing someone who will carry out his command that the attorney general protect him from the investigation, because their public position is that they fully support that investigation.
So Senate Republicans are forced to discuss Sessions’s future with boilerplate such as this:
“We wish the best for him, but as any administration would show, Cabinet members seldom last the entire administration, and this is clearly not an exception,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said in an interview Tuesday.
“Nothing lasts forever,” Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) told The Washington Post, describing the Trump-Sessions dynamic as “a toxic relationship.”
In other words, Republicans need to pretend that there is some vague and mysterious set of differences between Trump and Sessions that is to blame for undermining their relationship, when they — and all of us — know the real cause of it. Because Trump has openly told us so! This is yet another indication of how Trump’s authoritarian musings are slowly getting normalized, with the complicity of congressional Republicans. As always.