Tensions between President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions reached a boiling point Thursday after the president said in an interview that Sessions “never took control of the Justice Department.”
The Attorney General responded in a statement, writing, “I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda—one that protects the safety and security and rights of the American people, reduces violent crime, enforces our immigration laws, promotes economic growth, and advances religious liberty.”
Trump seems to have lost any faith he had in his Attorney General, but faces an uphill battle on replacing Sessions
Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have both signaled that it might be time for Sessions to leave the Justice Department. Graham, who spoke to SaraACarter.com Thursday, noted that Sessions has served with distinction but Trump has the right to replace him as the relationship between the two is in disrepair.
Trump seems to have lost any faith he had in his Attorney General, but faces an uphill battle on replacing Sessions. He has some options available, but they come saddled many political implications:
Sessions is Fired or Resigns – Trump could fire Sessions or he could resign, at which point Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would assume the role under Trump’s DOJ succession plan. Trump and Rosenstein have also had a contentious relationship, so Trump may choose to have a different acting Attorney General. The President would then need to nominate a new Attorney General which the Senate would have to confirm.
Trump Can Nominate a Previously Senate-Confirmed Appointee – In order for Trump to avoid having Rosenstein take over the helm of the Justice Department, he could look to the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998. According to Steve Vladeck, a professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law, the president “may direct anyone who holds a ‘PAS’ office — one requiring presidential appointment and Senate confirmation — to serve as Acting Attorney General for 210 days.” He continued by saying, “If the individual President Trump desires to serve as Sessions’ successor is Senate confirmable, then nothing would stop President Trump from simply nominating the successor and naming someone else as the short-term Acting Attorney General under the Vacancies Reform Act.”
Recess Appointment – A very politically challenging option but Trump could fire Sessions and at a time when the Senate is in recess for more than 10 days, could appoint a new Attorney General. This option would not require any Senate confirmation.
Trump’s relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been rocky from the very beginning. Sessions decided to recuse himself from everything related to Russia collusion and the Mueller investigation without informing Trump before his confirmation as Attorney General. Trump has repeatedly said he would have never nominated Sessions for the job if he knew that he was going to recuse himself.