McConnell: Sessions should stay as attorney general

McConnell: Sessions should stay as attorney general
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress Juan Williams: America needs radical solutions MORE (R-Ky.) is throwing his support behind Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports McCabe: Trump's 'relentless attack' on FBI prompted memoir Trump: 'Disgraced' McCabe, Rosenstein look like they were planning 'very illegal act' MORE as some Republicans have opened the door to President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE firing the top Justice Department official.

"Yes, I have total confidence in the attorney general; I think he ought to stay exactly where he is," McConnell told reporters on Tuesday, asked if he still supported the attorney general.

McConnell's comments backing Sessions — who served in the Senate for 20 years — mark the first time the Senate GOP leader has publicly weighed in since Trump restarted his feud with the attorney general late last week.

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Speculation about Sessions's job security reached a fever pitch after GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Warren: Officials have duty ‘to invoke 25th amendment’ if they think Trump is unfit MORE (S.C.) told reporters that it was likely Trump would pick a new attorney general after the midterms. 

Graham, despite widespread pushback from his colleagues, has doubled down on his comments, arguing that the Trump-Sessions relationship is "beyond repair."

"You have to replace him with somebody who is highly qualified and will commit to the Senate to allow Mueller to do his job. ... The President has lost confidence in Jeff Sessions," Graham told NBC News's "Today" on Tuesday.

He added that the two men have a "dysfunctional relationship" and "we need a better one."

But several Republican senators have publicly warned Trump against firing Sessions, suggesting he would not be able to get a successor confirmed through the Senate.

Five Republican senators had breakfast with Sessions on Thursday and encouraged him to stay on the job. Hours after the meeting, which was first reported on Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal, Sessions fired back at the president in a rare statement, saying his department “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Poll 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 MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, called the breakfast a "standard" meeting similar to what he and other Judiciary Committee members have had with other attorney generals.

"It kind of turned to the kerfuffle with the president and we all encouraged him to stay strong," Cornyn told reporters when asked about the meeting.

Sessions invited the GOP senators to the meeting, which was scheduled before the current round of "unpleasantness," according to Cornyn. In addition to Cornyn, GOP Sens. 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.), John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenators optimistic about reaching funding deal GOP senators read Pence riot act before shutdown votes On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (Kan.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Business, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration GOP senator dedicates heart photo to wife from Senate floor for Valentine's Day MORE (N.C.) attended the breakfast.

Cornyn added that senators encouraged Sessions to "stay strong," while acknowledging that Trump's attacks "can't be fun." Asked if Sessions indicated that he would take their advice, Cornyn pointed to the statement released by Sessions.

"You saw the statement that came out of his office," he said, "and I think part of that started at the breakfast. That's the way I interpreted it. It sounded to me like he was laying down a pretty firm marker."

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

Trump has only doubled down on his criticism after Sessions said he wouldn't be improperly influenced.Trump said in a tweet that Sessions should look at the "other side."

"Come on Jeff, you can do it, the country is waiting!" Trump said.