Republicans warn Senate wouldn't confirm Sessions successor

Senate Republicans are sending a warning shot to President TrumpDonald John TrumpFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign MORE as he lashes out at Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsJeffrey Rosen officially sworn in as deputy attorney general House Democrats leave empty chair for McGahn at hearing MSNBC host: Barr 'the most dangerous person' who works for Trump MORE, saying they don't think he should fire him and hinting the Senate is unlikely to confirm a successor.

Trump renewed his criticism of Sessions — who was his earliest Senate supporter but has fallen from grace amid the Russia investigation — during a Fox News interview for the attorney general's recusal from matters related to the special counsel investigation into Russia's election interference.

But GOP senators — spanning from conservatives to Trump critics and members of leadership — are throwing their support behind Sessions, a long-time senator who remains popular with his colleagues.  

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"We don't have time, nor is there a likely candidate, who could get confirmed, in my view, under these current circumstances," Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Bipartisan House bill calls for strategy to protect 5G networks from foreign threats Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters. 

Asked if there was a date after which it would be easier for Trump to fire Sessions, he added that Sessions and Trump should "work out their differences." 

Sessions fired back at the president in a rare statement on Thursday, saying he “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”

GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOil companies join blitz for carbon tax The Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget Jeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump MORE (Ariz.), a member of the Judiciary Committee and a frequent Trump critic, added that it would be "very difficult" for the Senate to confirm a successor to Sessions. Meanwhile, GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' Biden says Congress must move to protect abortion rights MORE (Maine) said firing him would not be a "wise move." 

"I don't see the president being able to get someone else confirmed as attorney general were he to fire Jeff Sessions," Collins told reporters. 

Republicans would have a narrow path to getting a new attorney general through the Senate. Their 51-seat majority is effectively capped at 50 with Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain says Ben Carson should be developing brain cancer treatment, not working at HUD Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats Pelosi receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award MORE (R-Ariz.) battling brain cancer. 

If just one of Sessions's GOP colleagues decided to vote "no," and if Democrats united against the nomination, Republicans wouldn't have the votes to confirm a replacement. 

GOP Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order to protect US networks from Chinese tech | Huawei downplays order | Trump declines to join effort against online extremism | Facebook restricts livestreaming | FCC proposes new tool against robocalls MORE (Neb.) signaled on Thursday that he could vote against another attorney general nominee if Sessions is fired for refusing to be a "political hack."

"I find it really difficult to envision any circumstance where I would vote to confirm a successor to Jeff Sessions if he is fired because he's executing his job rather than choosing to act as a partisan hack," Sasse said from the Senate floor.

Trump's long-running feud with Sessions has been a constant point of division between Senate Republicans, who each voted to confirm him as attorney general, and Trump. 

GOP Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.), similar to Cornyn, urged the two men to work out their differences. 

"We all want the investigation to be completed. But I think the attorney general is doing a good job. It just breaks my heart to see them at odds. I really would hope that the president would sit down with the attorney general and put any differences aside," he said. 

Cornyn added that he didn't believe Sessions had lost support around the Senate, comparing him to a "quintessential Boy Scout."  

Speculation about Session's future in the administration hit a fever pitch after GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats Congress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit MORE (S.C.) told Bloomberg that he believed Trump would replace Sessions after the midterm election.  

“I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice,” Graham said. “Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Trump mulling visit to ethanol refinery later this month: report Nursing home care: A growing crisis for an aging America  MORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, separately told Bloomberg that he had time for nomination hearings that he previously didn't have time for, an apparent reference to his previous comments that his panel didn't have time to take up an attorney general nomination. 

But some Republicans worry that firing Sessions now — amid growing legal troubles for Trump's orbit in the wake of former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen's guilty plea and former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortHouse Democrat 'fixed' Trump's infographic about Mueller's investigation Michael Caputo eyes congressional bid Roger Stone considers suing to discover if he was spied on by FBI MORE's conviction — would only increase speculation that the president is trying to interfere in Mueller's probe.

Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinJake Tapper fact-checks poster Trump admin created describing Mueller investigation Jeffrey Rosen officially sworn in as deputy attorney general Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller MORE was put in charge of overseeing the investigation after Sessions recused himself.  

"Yeah, there are concerns that the domino effect — who is next? I hope he doesn't," Flake said. 

Collins added that Sessions was right to recuse himself. 

"It certainly would send the wrong message," she said. "The basis of the president's criticism of the attorney general is that he recused himself, appropriately so, from the Russia investigation."