Top Republicans have come out in support of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as President Donald Trump continues to criticize him.
Trump has publicly expressed his frustration with the AG multiple times.
Jeff Sessions, who served as a United States Senator from Alabama from 1997 to 2017, was the first Republican Senator to endorse Trump’s presidential bid. He was a top advisor and headed the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team. When Trump became president, he nominated Sessions to be AG.
Sessions, once a member of Trump’s inner circle, fell out of favor when he recused himself from the ongoing probe into contacts between Trump aides and Russian officials. As a result of his recusal, the Department of Justice appointed former FBI chief Robert Mueller to head the investigation as the special counsel. Click here for more details.
Trump has raged against the investigation and Sessions’ recusal in interviews and through his Twitter account. He has voiced his regret in the appointment.
Given Trump’s increased rhetoric, Republican lawmakers have come in support of Sessions. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader of the Senate, broke ranks from the White House and praised Sessions. He said, “I think the attorney general is doing a fine job and I think he made the right decision to recuse himself from the Russia matter.” This is one of the few times he has openly disagreed with the president.
One of the most forceful statements came from Senator Richard Shelby, who also comes from Alabama. In an interview with Fox News he said, “I have a lot of respect for Sessions and worked with him in Senate for 20 years…he is a man of integrity and purpose. Jeff Sessions is the Attorney General of the United States; he’s not the president’s personal lawyer.”
Senator Lindsey Graham issued a statement calling Trump’s actions “highly inappropriate.” He said, “Prosecutorial decisions should be based on applying facts to the law without hint of political motivation. To do otherwise is to run away from the long-standing American tradition of separating the law from politics regardless of party.”
Some experts have said that Trump is trying pressure Sessions into resigning from his position rather than firing him. Trump’s firing of former FBI head James Comey was highly controversial and he wouldn’t want to be accused of obstruction of justice by firing Sessions as well.
Our assessment is that Trump’s belligerence towards Sessions, one of his first supporters, will create deeper fractures within the Republican establishment. If Trump were to fire Sessions then that could be a move to arraign him on charges of obstruction of justice. This could be politically damaging for the president. It appears Trump is alienating himself from fellow Republican senators who are highly influential.