Don also high on pals Gra­ham & Kobach

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY CHRIS SOM­MER­FELDT With Kerry Burke

Pres­i­dent Trump is con­sid­er­ing a hand­ful of loy­al­ists as pos­si­ble re­place­ments for Jeff Ses­sions af­ter his un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous exit as at­tor­ney gen­eral, peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said Thurs­day.

Fol­low­ing months of pub­lic spats, Trump fi­nally fired Ses­sions on Wed­nes­day and re­placed him tem­po­rar­ily with the AG’s chief of staff Matthew Whi­taker, a po­lit­i­cal ap­pointee who now over­sees spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion — de­spite be­ing a vo­cal critic of it.

Trump didn’t im­me­di­ately nom­i­nate a per­ma­nent re­place­ment for Ses­sions, but sources fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said the Pres­i­dent is mulling at least five peo­ple for the top law en­force­ment post. All five would to vary­ing de­grees spell trou­ble for Mueller, who ac­cord­ing to CNN has be­gun his fi­nal re­port on what re­ally hap­pened be­tween the Trump cam­paign and the Krem­lin dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion.

High on list is Kris Kobach, the con­tro­ver­sial Kansas sec­re­tary of state who headed Trump’s de­funct com­mis­sion on voter fraud, which folded ear­lier this year af­ter it was un­able to prove the Pres­i­dent’s claim that mil­lions of peo­ple voted il­le­gally in the 2016 elec­tion.

“With the ex­panded ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, it could very well hap­pen,” a GOP in­sider fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter told the Daily News about Kobach, ref­er­enc­ing the Repub­li­can up­per cham­ber gains in Tues­day’s midterm elec­tions.

Kobach, a long­time Trump booster who just lost a gu­ber­na­to­rial race in Kansas, was con­sid­ered for a num­ber of cabi­net-level po­si­tions at the out­set of Trump’s pres­i­dency, in­clud­ing sec­re­tary of Home­land Se­cu­rity.

An­other pos­si­ble con­tender is Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, one of Trump’s most vo­cal sup­port­ers in Congress.

The Repub­li­can South Carolina se­na­tor was spot­ted walk­ing into the Oval Of­fice with Trump on Thurs­day morn­ing, less than 24 hours af­ter the Pres­i­dent canned Ses­sions.

Un­like many Trump loy­al­ists, Gra­ham has not sided with the Pres­i­dent in ac­cus­ing Mueller of or­ches­trat­ing a po­lit­i­cal “witch hunt.”

For­mer New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was also at the White House on Thurs­day, ac­cord­ing to NBC News. A

per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said he’s also on Trump’s list of pos­si­ble AG nom­i­nees.

How­ever, a Christie nom­i­na­tion would likely be met with skep­ti­cism from Trump’s fam­ily mem­bers — par­tic­u­larly son-in-law Jared Kush­ner, whose fa­ther Christie pros­e­cuted on tax eva­sion and wit­ness tam­per­ing charges in the early 2000s, re­sult­ing in a 14 month prison sen­tence.

Rudy Gi­u­liani was an­other name dropped by Repub­li­can op­er­a­tives fa­mil­iar with the Pres­i­dent’s think­ing.

The for­mer New York mayor has served as Trump’s top lawyer and main me­dia mouth­piece in the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, fre­quently blast­ing Mueller on na­tional tele­vi­sion and de­mand­ing the spe­cial coun­sel wrap it up.

How­ever, Gi­u­liani’s con­tentious pub­lic di­vorce pro­ceed­ings in New York could make him an unattrac­tive can­di­date to helm the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

Dur­ing a hear­ing in Man­hat­tan Supreme Court on Wed­nes­day, an at­tor­ney for Gi­u­liani’s third ex-wife, Ju­dith Nathan, re­vealed the for­mer mob pros­e­cu­tor re­cently spent $12,000 on cigars and more than $7,000 on foun­tain pens.

Gi­u­liani did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Florida At­tor­ney Gen­eral Pam Bondi is also on Trump’s short list, a source told The News. Bondi has faced crit­i­cism for co-host­ing overtly Trump-prais­ing shows on Fox News while con­cur­rently serv­ing as the Sun­shine State’s top law en­force­ment of­fi­cial.

Pend­ing a per­ma­nent re­place­ment, Democrats have called on Whi­taker to re­cuse him­self from su­per­vis­ing Mueller, con­sid­er­ing his nu­mer­ous slights against his in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­clud­ing opin­ing in a TV in­ter­view last year that Trump should fire Ses­sions and re­place him with an act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral who could sti­fle the spe­cial coun­sel’s in­quiry by cut­ting off fund­ing for it.

Echo­ing such con­cerns, thou­sands of pro­test­ers marched through Man­hat­tan Thurs­day evening to voice their aver­sion to Whi­taker.

“He’s a scary, scary guy,” said Alexis Danzig, a 57-yearold writer from Har­lem.

Not giv­ing Whi­taker the ben­e­fit of the doubt, Danzig added, “If he fires Mueller that’s full on fas­cism.”

“Trump wants to shut down the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion and we’ll never know the facts,” said Kristy Lynch, a stay-at-home mom from Maple­wood, N.J., who marched with her 3-year-old twins and 8-year-old daugh­ter.

“Amer­i­cans have to keep do­ing this un­til it changes,” said Lynch. She pointed at her chil­dren and added: “It’s im­por­tant for these guys right here.”

Some of Trump’s most pro­lific crit­ics sug­gested Whi­taker’s ap­point­ment as Mueller over­seer could ac­tu­ally be un­con­sti­tu­tional.

“Be­cause Mr. Whi­taker has not un­der­gone the process of Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion, there has been no mech­a­nism for scru­ti­niz­ing whether he has the char­ac­ter and abil­ity to even­hand­edly en­force the law in a po­si­tion of such grave re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Ge­orge Con­way, the hus­band of se­nior Trump ad­viser Kellyanne Con­way, wrote in an es­say pub­lished by The New York Times. “The pub­lic is en­ti­tled to that as­sur­ance, es­pe­cially since Mr. Whi­taker’s only su­per­vi­sor is Mr. Trump him­self, and the pres­i­dent is hope­lessly com­pro­mised by the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Pres­i­dent Trump walks with at­tor­ney gen­eral con­tender Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham (r.) at White House on Thurs­day, while marchers (in­set, r.) on Fifth Ave. in city protested pos­si­ble threat to Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter the fir­ing of Jeff Ses­sions.

Other fa­vorites to suc­ceed Ses­sions in­clude (be­low, from left) Kansas Sec­re­tary of State Kris Kobach, for­mer New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Trump’s per­sonal lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani and Florida At­tor­ney Gen­eral Pam Bondi.

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