So is Attorney General Jeff Sessions out of the dog house with President Trump? He’s been making some moves lately that seem tailored to please the boss.
It may not be enough. Trump isn’t exactly known for his loyalty, although he asks for it, and even requires it of his underlings.
According to CNN, Sessions’ overtures may not be enough. He still recused himself from the Russia investigation, and for that, Trump blames him. It was the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller. In Trump’s mind, had Sessions not recused himself, Mueller wouldn’t be indicting his pals and campaign aides, nor would he be sniffing around Trump’s business dealings.
With that in mind, some sources are saying that as recently as this week, Trump has floated the idea of replacing Sessions with Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency head who is currently battling some uncomfortable ethical issues, of his own.
“He was 100% still trying to protect Pruitt because Pruitt is his fill-in for Sessions,” one source familiar with Trump’s thinking told CNN.
Trump said earlier Thursday that he still has confidence in Pruitt, even as things become increasingly uncomfortable for him. Several interviews with Fox News and the Washington Examiner seem to have made things even worse.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is said to have less confidence in Pruitt than Trump, and has asked Pruitt if there is anything else that might come up and cause embarrassment. Pruitt has reportedly said there was not.
But Pruitt has remained in Trump’s good graces for the most part, though a source who is familiar with the matter said the President’s confidence in him has faltered some in light of the ethics issues. However, Trump is hesitant to fire him because he likes entertaining the idea of replacing Sessions with Pruitt eventually and feels confident that he will continue to advance his agenda at the EPA in the meanwhile.
Aides are telling Trump that to fire Sessions now, this close to midterms, could be a mistake, given his popularity with conservatives.
The most loyal Trump devotees would probably be fine with it, as they take their cues from Trump, but for mainstream conservatives, Sessions has always enjoyed favorability.
Though Trump has laid off shaming Sessions publicly, sources who are familiar with their relationship caution that he hasn’t privately backed off his criticism. These people often wait for Trump’s hostility toward Sessions to resurface and several were stunned that he never tweeted about Sessions being on the cover of Time magazine.
The cover featured a shadowy photo of the former Alabama senator with the phrase “Nobody’s above the law” plastered across his right shoulder in all capital letters. Trump’s white-hot anger has been trained on Sessions for over a year now since the attorney general recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.
That was a really bad cover. That may be why Trump has kept mum about it.
Sessions’ supporters don’t feel his job is in immediate danger, but just the fact that Trump is privately grousing about him, and that insiders are saying he’s protecting scandal-ridden Pruitt because he wants him to replace Sessions doesn’t bode well.