RUDY, CHRIS MAKE AG LIST
Don also high on pals Graham & Kobach
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.