Republicans warn Senate wouldn't confirm Sessions successor

Senate Republicans are sending a warning shot to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE as he lashes out at Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war McCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' 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 CornynPoll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week How the border deal came together 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 FlakeTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger 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 CollinsBusiness, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week 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 McCainMark Kelly's campaign raises over M in days after launching Senate bid The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers wait for Trump's next move on border deal Mark Kelly launches Senate bid in Arizona 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 SasseOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Push for cosponsors for new 'Medicare for all' bill | Court lets Dems defend ObamaCare | Flu season not as severe as last year, CDC says Senate approves border bill that prevents shutdown The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears 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 GrahamThe Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war Graham seeks new Rosenstein testimony after explosive McCabe interview Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general 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 GrassleySenate approves border bill that prevents shutdown Grassley raises voice after McConnell interrupts Senate speech Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general 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 ManafortMueller recommends Manafort serve at least 19 years in prison The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears CNN's Toobin: 'Almost unrecognizable' Manafort 'in danger of losing his life' in prison MORE's conviction — would only increase speculation that the president is trying to interfere in Mueller's probe.

Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinEx-federal prosecutor: I would have 'owned' wearing a wire to record Trump The embarrassing return of Andrew McCabe The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight 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."