Pres­i­dent’s tweets sug­gest Ses­sions’ days are num­bered

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY DON LEE

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has been war­ring with his at­tor­ney gen­eral, Jeff Ses­sions, since Ses­sions re­cused him­self from the FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s elec­tion-med­dling, which has led to the mount­ing le­gal prob­lems for Trump and his as­so­ciates as special coun­sel Robert Mueller in­ves­ti­gates po­ten­tial col­lu­sion.

Now, af­ter last week’s guilty plea from Trump’s for­mer per­sonal lawyer Michael Co­hen, the tax fraud con­vic­tion of for­mer Trump cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort and news that the Trump or­ga­ni­za­tion’s long­time chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer may be co­op­er­at­ing with pros­e­cu­tors, the pres­i­dent is step­ping up his at­tacks against Ses­sions and ap­pears to be lay­ing the ground­work to fire the na­tion’s top law en­force­ment of­fi­cial.

In Twit­ter posts Satur­day morn­ing, Trump again sought to dis­tance him­self from the Co­hen case and im­pli­ca­tions that he did any­thing wrong, and he wrote: “Jeff Ses­sions said he wouldn’t al­low pol­i­tics to in­flu­ence him only be­cause he doesn’t un­der­stand what is hap­pen­ing un­der­neath his com­mand po­si­tion. Highly con­flicted Bob Mueller and his gang of 17 An­gry Dems are hav­ing a field day as real cor­rup­tion goes un­touched. No Col­lu­sion!”

Trump then posted re­marks made by Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., on Fri­day when the se­na­tor was asked by Fox News about the ac­ri­mo­nious re­la­tions be­tween Trump and Ses­sions: “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.”

About 20 min­utes later, Trump brought up his long-run­ning com­plaint that Ses­sions and the FBI had not done a proper job of in­ves­ti­gat­ing the con­tro­versy over Hil­lary Clin­ton’s use of pri­vate emails while she was sec­re­tary of state. Re­fer­ring to a Fox re­port on the email scan­dal, Trump wrote: “Big story out that the FBI ig­nored tens of thou­sands of Crooked Hil­lary Emails, many of which are RE­ALLY BAD. Also gave false elec­tion info. I feel sure that we will soon be get­ting to the bot­tom of all of this cor­rup­tion. At some point I may have to get in­volved!”

Whether his com­ment that he may get per­son­ally in­volved was re­fer­ring to Ses­sions wasn’t clear, but the lat­est Twit­ter posts re­flect the pres­i­dent’s swelling ag­i­ta­tion at the con­tin­u­ing and widen­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Mueller. And in cit­ing Gra­ham’s re­marks, Trump may have de­cided to use that open­ing to re­move Ses­sions. Trump has made clear he wants to shut down the special coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion, or at least re­fo­cus it on his po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies, and Ses­sions is his big­gest ob­sta­cle right now. But such a move would have ma­jor le­gal and po­lit­i­cal reper­cus­sions, rais­ing the prospect to ob­struc­tion of jus­tice and fur­ther jeop­ar­diz­ing sev­eral vul­ner­a­ble Repub­li­cans in the midterm elec­tions. Democrats are de­mand­ing Congress pass leg­is­la­tion that shields the special coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion from be­ing dis­banded by Trump or his ad­min­is­tra­tion. Repub­li­can lead­ers are balk­ing on ad­vanc­ing it.

The Repub­li­cans have ar­gued through­out the in­ves­ti­ga­tion that they are con­fi­dent Trump would not try to in­ter­fere with it, and thus, they said, leg­is­la­tion pro­tect­ing Mueller was un­nec­es­sary. Now, the pres­i­dent has com­pli­cated mat­ters for them.

Gra­ham was among other Repub­li­can law­mak­ers who had warned Trump against fir­ing Ses­sions, as that could com­pro­mise the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Gra­ham said in the sum­mer that there would be “holy hell to pay” if Trump took such ac­tion.

But in re­vers­ing course tlast week, Gra­ham said that while Ses­sions “has been a good at­tor­ney gen­eral,” his work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Trump was nei­ther sus­tain­able nor prof­itable for the na­tion. The pres­i­dent is “en­ti­tled to an at­tor­ney gen­eral he has faith in,” he said.

Ses­sions, a for­mer Repub­li­can se­na­tor from Alabama and once one of Trump’s big­gest sup­port­ers on Capi­tol Hill, ear­lier last week fired back at Trump’s crit­i­cisms by say­ing that as long as he is at­tor­ney gen­eral, the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s “ac­tions will not be im­prop­erly in­flu­enced by po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions. I de­mand the high­est stan- dards, and where they are not met, I take ac­tion.”

Trump’s own po­ten­tially le­gal and po­lit­i­cal trou­bles mounted last week af­ter Co­hen on Tues­day pleaded guilty to eight counts, in­clud­ing vi­o­la­tions of cam- paign fi­nance laws that in­volved hush money pay­ments to two women who claimed they had had af­fairs with Trump. Co­hen said that he had acted “in co­or­di­na­tion with and at the direc­tion of” a man, clearly iden­ti­fi­able as Trump, “for the prin­ci­pal pur­pose of in­flu­enc­ing the elec­tion” for pres­i­dent in 2016. The same day, a jury found Manafort guilty on eight counts of tax eva­sion and bank fraud.


At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, a for­mer Repub­li­can se­na­tor from Alabama, has been de­fended by sen­a­tors from be­ing fired. But now that sup­port ap­pears to be weak­en­ing.

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