In Brief

Jeff Sessions's options: Jump or be pushed out of office?

Donald Trump's new tirade raises questions about Attorney General's future

Donald Trump has launched another attack on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, sparking speculation the country's top legal official could be fired.

The US President tweeted that Sessions was "very weak" for not pursuing criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

He also asked why the Attorney General was not looking into reports that officials in Ukraine sought to influence last year's presidential campaign in favour of his Democratic rival.

Trump's outburst follows an interview with the New York Times last week in which he said he would not have appointed Sessions had he known he would recuse himself from the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News Trump was "frustrated and disappointed" at the decision. Other news outlets said the President was "seething" over a perceived lack of loyalty.

All this has left the former Alabama senator, a long time supporter of Trump and one of the first mainstream politicians to publicly endorse him, in a precarious position, with some commentators suggesting he might jump before he is pushed.

Reports in the Washington Post claim Trump and his advisers are privately discussing the possibility of replacing Sessions, with "some confidants even floating prospects who could take his place were he to resign or be fired".

According to ABC News, "privately, the President has speculated aloud to allies in recent days about the potential consequences of firing Sessions".

Anthony Scaramucci, new communications director at the White House, also fanned speculation yesterday that the Attorney General's days could be numbered.

Asked during a radio interview whether it Trump wanted Sessions gone, he replied: "If there's this level of tension in the relationship that's public, you're probably right." 

While there are some who say Trump is tormenting the Attorney General "simply because he can, like a cat with a mouse", pushing him out "would not simply be personal vengeance", says The Atlantic. If Trump could appoint a new head of the Justice Department, he could then order him or her to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the Russia inquiry.

Anthony Zurcher of the BBC says the "political pain" being applied to Sessions is steadily increasing "like some sort of medieval torture device" - and that "Trump is behind it all, turning the screws".

If the President can turn on Sessions, "the thinking goes, no one is safe".

While it may be a question of when, not if, Sessions goes, the campaign to undermine the Attorney General "could come at a high price", adds Zurcher, as a picture emerges of an administration constantly looking over its shoulder, where even blind loyalty is not enough to survive.

Is it time up for US Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

21 July

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn't planning on resigning, despite being the subject of an angry attack from Donald Trump this week.

The President hit out after Sessions stepped aside from the investigation into links between the White House and Moscow following the news that he had two undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador last year.

"Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president," Trump told the New York Times. "How do you take a job and then recuse yourself?"

His words had commentators believing Sessions's departure was inevitable.

Trump "effectively asked Sessions for his resignation. Will he resign or insist on being fired?" tweeted Preet Bharara, the former US attorney for Manhattan.

However, the Attorney General turned a deaf ear to reporters' questions on whether the President had compromised his authority.

"We love this job, we love this department, and I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate," he simply said.

John Wood, a former chief of staff for the Department of Homeland Security, told The Hill that while Trump’s criticism will make it more difficult, there’s no reason Sessions cannot still serve.

"I don't think it is to the point where Sessions has lost the ability to run the department," he said.

Sessions also had the backing of the head of the National ICE Council union, which represents staff at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who called him a "great friend to law enforcement".

However, after Trump's comments, the fact remains that "Attorney General Jeff Sessions' standing could not be more precarious", the Daily Beast reports.

For now, Sessions is staying put for one simple reason. As White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: "Clearly, [Trump] has confidence in [Sessions] or he would not be attorney general."

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