The rift between President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions goes “deeper” than than Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from a federal investigation into the 2016 election, Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday.
“It is much deeper than that,” Graham (R-S.C.) said, in an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show. “The relationship is beyond repair, I think.”
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Graham declined to say what else is at the root of Trump’s frustration with the attorney general, saying only that “we won’t say on this show, but it’s a pretty deep breach.”
Last week, Trump did not rule out the possibility of firing Sessions during an interview with Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” Trump has long complained about Sessions, criticizing him regularly for his decision to recuse himself from any Justice Department investigation related to the 2016 election, a move that has sidelined him from overseeing the Russia probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump has called that investigation a “witch hunt.”
In his “Fox & Friends” interview last week, Trump said Sessions should have told him he would recuse himself from 2016-related investigations and that the attorney general had failed to take control of the Justice Department.
“What kind of a man is this?” Trump said during that interview.
The president’s remarks prompted a rare rebuke from Sessions, who released a statement insisting that “the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations” and that the Justice Department has had “unprecedented success at effectuating the president’s agenda” since Sessions took office.
For much of his tenure as attorney general, Sessions has been buoyed by support from Capitol Hill, where he served for years as a senator from Alabama before joining the Trump administration. But the tide has begun to turn against Sessions in recent weeks, with both Graham and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) opening the door for the Senate to confirm a new attorney general.
But while Graham said Tuesday that Sessions could be replaced, he said any new attorney general would have to pledge to allow Mueller’s probe to continue without interference. “Nobody is going to take Jeff’s place that doesn’t commit to the Senate, and the country as a whole, that Mueller will be allowed to finish his job without political interference,” Graham said.
“He is not the only man in the country that can be attorney general. He is a fine man. I’m not asking for him to be fired. But the relationship is not working,” Graham said. “Is there somebody who is highly qualified that has the confidence of the president, and will also understand their job is to protect Mueller? Yes, I think we can find that person after the election if that is what the president wants.”