Trump denies he is considering replacing Sessions with Pruitt

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE on Friday denied reports that he is considering replacing Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsKamala Harris: The right choice at the right time Three pros and three cons to Biden picking Harris The 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence MORE with Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA looks to other statutes to expand scope of coming 'secret science' rule EPA ordered to reconsider New York efforts to tame downwind pollution OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups | Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects| Russian mining giant reports another fuel spill in Arctic MORE, whom he said is “doing a great job” leading the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but "TOTALLY under siege."

In a tweet, the president lashed out at the media for "pushing hard on a story" that he had considered replacing his attorney general with his embattled EPA chief.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Do you believe that the Fake News Media is pushing hard on a story that I am going to replace A.G. Jeff Sessions with EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, who is doing a great job but is TOTALLY under siege? Do people really believe this stuff? So much of the media is dishonest and corrupt!” the president tweeted.

Minutes before the president’s tweet, CNN aired a report stating that Trump has privately discussed the Cabinet move as recently as this week, even as Pruitt facing mounting ethics scrutiny.

Rumors first circulated in January that Pruitt was gunning for the Attorney General role, following multiple reports that Trump was looking to replace Sessions. Pruitt nor the EPA ever disputed the reports

The president’s relationship with Sessions has been publicly strained, partially stemming from Session’s decision last year to recuse himself from the Justice Department's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Following the decision, Trump in July told the New York Times, “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.”

But Republican members of Congress up until late March were firmly against the idea of Pruitt taking over the AG’s office.

“I’d be very upset, I’m upset that he’s even interested,” said Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeLincoln Project expands GOP target list, winning Trump ire Trump's contempt for advice and consent Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  MORE (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“He would not be able to have the freedom to do what his mission is, what he thinks he should. You know anyone could be an Attorney General.”

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzRussian news agency pushed video of Portland protestors burning a Bible: report After trillions in tax cuts for the rich, Republicans refuse to help struggling Americans Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE (R-Texas) who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee — the committee tasked with confirming an AG — wouldn't consider a change.

“Jeff Sessions is a friend and he is the Attorney General and I’m grateful that he is the Attorney General,” Cruz said. “I believe we need a strong and effective Attorney General and I believe that Scott Pruitt is doing an excellent job at EPA.”

Pruitt and his allies in conservative circles have undertaken a comprehensive effort in the past week to defend him and keep him in Trump’s good graces. Criticism of the media has been central to their strategy.

“Among members of the White House Cabinet, no agency head has done more to follow the president’s lead in draining the swamp than Scott Pruitt, who leads the Environmental Protection Agency. Make no mistake, that’s why the left and its allies in the media are working overtime to smear him,” Jenny Beth Martin, chairwoman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, wrote in The Hill.

Trump has publicly defended Pruitt, even though his job as EPA administration is said to be in jeopardy.  

“I think he’s done a fantastic job. I think he’s done an incredible job. He’s been very courageous,” the president told reporters Thursday while flying back from West Virginia. “It hasn’t been easy, but I think he’s done a fantastic job.”

“You know, I just left coal and energy country. They love Scott Pruitt,” he said, referring to Pruitt’s pro-coal policies and efforts to repeal environmental rules. “They feel very strongly about Scott Pruitt. And they love Scott Pruitt.”

The president and his top aides have quietly stewed over negative headlines about Pruitt’s condo-rental agreement with the wife of an energy lobbyist and his spending on foreign travel. 

Sessions has long been in Trump's doghouse over his decision last year to recuse himself from the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The move helped lead to the appointment of Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE as special counsel leading the probe, which ramped up legal pressure on Trump.

The reports of a potential Cabinet change-up came amid a number of recent executive cabinet rearrangements — the latest being Trump’s firing of David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinVA inspector general says former top official steered M contract to friend Schumer demands answers in use of unproven coronavirus drug on veterans Former Trump VA secretary says staffer found plans to replace him in department copier MORE, Department of Veterans Affairs chief, last week. Trump ousted Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe four China strategies Trump or Biden will need to consider Trump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet How the US could respond to Russia's support of the Taliban MORE in March.

Updated 11:41 a.m.