Sessions allies say he will weather Trump’s wrath


Senators close to Attorney General Jeff Sessions predict their former colleague will stay at President Trump’s side despite a significant row over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Republican senators viewed reports that Sessions is on thin ice as more reflective of what they call Trump’s unpredictable and impatient nature than anything else.

“I really believe their relationship is good and a lot of people aren’t happy with that and will try to use all the quotes they can to make it look bad,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), one of Sessions’s closest friends in the Senate.

{mosads}“I would be disappointed but I’d be more surprised,” Inhofe said of the likelihood of Sessions stepping down as attorney general. “It’s just not going to happen.”

Other senators say that Sessions himself likely floated his possible resignation to show deference to the president. The theory is backed up by reports that Trump refused it.

“There’s no rift there. Jeff was just being gracious,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who long served with the former Alabama senator on the Judiciary Committee. “I know Jeff very well. There’s no problem there.”

Sessions was the first member of the Senate to endorse Trump for president and for months was the only member of the upper chamber to publicly back his campaign.

But the president was irate when Sessions announced he would step away from the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election two days after Trump delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress, earning positive reviews. The announcement cast a shadow on what was shaping up to be a rare week of glowing press coverage for Trump.

The recusal also opened the door to the probe spinning out of the administration’s control. Trump’s fears came to fruition weeks later when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tapped former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel.

Trump also voiced frustration over the Department of Justice’s modification to his proposed travel ban, which courts have held up.

In a tweet this week, he argued Justice should have kept his original ban in place rather than the “watered down, politically correct version” they have presented to courts.

The frustrations boiled over this week into reports that Trump had voiced his frustrations with Sessions in front of other staffers, and that Sessions had offered to resign.

Sessions’s allies say the president has no real grounds for firing him and warn that doing so would create a bigger headache for the White House by putting Rosenstein in charge of Justice.

The attorney general’s job is made more secure, say GOP sources, by the fact that some of his close former aides occupy senior positions in Trump’s inner circle.

Rick Dearborn, Trump’s deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, previously served as Sessions’s Senate chief of staff. And Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior policy advisor, previously served as Sessions’s communications director.

Replacing Sessions would require another contentious confirmation process for his successor, which would give Democrats a chance to lob bombs at the administration, malign the nominee as the president’s rubber stamp and tie up the Senate floor.

Trump had a reputation as a businessman for demanding results from employees and expecting them to take personal hits to their reputations, if necessary, to defend him. He saw it as the price to being admitted to his inner circle.

But people close to Sessions say Trump misjudged if he expected Sessions, whom one of them described as a “boy scout,” to play that game.

“If you look at what happened from the outside perspective, Sessions has done everything right, but Trump is not looking for people to do everything right — he’s looking to get the results that he wants. Sessions is not going to take that approach,” said a person close to Sessions.

“Clearly there would be a rift if you were the president who thought you had someone who is a yes man and found out he is principled and is going to do the right thing,” the source added. 

Another senator close to Sessions said Trump is used to hiring people who deliver the results that he wants. In this case, the desired result would have been keeping a trusted ally in a supervisory role over the investigation.

“He’s used to hiring accountants and lawyers and saying, ‘fix so-and-so,’” the source said.

The senator said Trump was no doubt surprised when Sessions announced that instead of keeping tabs on the FBI probe, he would step away completely.

But the lawmaker said Sessions had little choice after it became revealed that he failed to disclose upon direct questioning during his Senate confirmation hearing his two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Sessions also failed to disclose the meetings on his security clearance form.

The lawmakers speculated that White House officials may have urged Sessions to downplay contacts with Russian officials and that he might have felt burned when the meetings became public.

Another Republican senator who served with Sessions on a committee said he didn’t take seriously reports that he threatened to resign.

“Everyone said that Bannon was on his way out, and he’s still there,” the lawmaker noted, referring to White House strategist Stephen Bannon, whom Trump appeared to marginalize in April. 

Tags Jeff Sessions Jim Inhofe Orrin Hatch

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