Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the White House recently that he might quit if his President Trump fires Deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein.
Sessions reportedly warned White House counsel Donald McGahn of his position in a phone call last weekend according to the WaPo, while President Trump’s rage at Rosenstein grew over the Deputy AG’s approval of a raid on Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s home, office and hotel room on April 9 – requested by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Sessions’s message to the White House, which has not previously been reported, underscores the political firestorm that Trump would invite should he attempt to remove the deputy attorney general. While Trump also has railed against Sessions at times, the protest resignation of an attorney general – which would be likely to incite other departures within the administration – would create a moment of profound crisis for the White House.
Rosenstein also signed off one of the FISA spy warrant renewals on a Trump campaign associate targeted in an FBI counterintelligence operation.
During a joint press conference on Wednesday with Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzō Abe, President Trump sought to calm fears over whether he would fire Rosenstein or Mueller.
“They’ve been saying I’m going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months, and they’re still here,” said Trump – though he expressed a desire to end the Russia investigation, calling it a “very bad thing for our country.”
“So we want to get the investigation over with, done with, put it behind us,” Trump added.
President Trump says Russia investigation “a hoax” during joint press conference with Japanese prime minister. Trump also appears to reference Mueller and Rosenstein, saying “they’re still here” pic.twitter.com/lkKUnxNzff
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 18, 2018
The Mercury News reports that Sessions asked McGahn about the details of a White House meeting between Trump and Rosenstein on April 12, according to a “person with knowledge of the call,” who said that Sessions “expressed relief to learn that their meeting was largely cordial.”
“Sessions said he would have had to consider leaving as the attorney general had Trump ousted Rosenstein, this person said.” –Mercury News
Another person familiar with the exchange insisted that Sessions didn’t intend on threatening the White House – rather, he wanted to convey that Rosenstein’s firing would put him in an untenable position.
Over 800 former Justice Department employees have signed an open letter calling on Congress to “swiftly and forcefully respond to protect the founding principles of our Republic and the rule of law” if Rosenstein, Mueller or other senior DOJ officials are fired. Liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org has plans to organize nationwide protests if the G-men are fired.
Sessions does not like the way President Trump has been treating Rosenstein, a senior administration official tells the Mercury, noting that Sessions has held this view “for months,” while regularly seeking guidance from the White House on Rosenstein’s standing with the president.
But Sessions has had little ability to do anything about it, given his own shaky standing with Trump for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, this official said. Trump has, at times, referred to Sessions as “Mr. Magoo” and Rosenstein as “Mr. Peepers,” a character from a 1950s sitcom, according to people with whom the president has spoken. –Mercury
On Wednesday, Eleven GOP members of Congress led by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) wrote a criminal referral to Sessions, along with Attorney John Huber and FBI Director Christopher Wray – accusing James Comey, Hillary Clinton and others of a laundry list of malfeasance surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and insisting that Rosenstein “be recused from any examination of FISA abuse,” and “neither U.S. Attorney John Huber nor a special counsel (if appointed) should report to Rosenstein.”
Perhaps it’s time to “drain” both Sessions and Rosenstein from the swamp. Of course, then there would be the not-so-small and just slightly controversial matter of confirming whoever Trump picks to replace Sessions before the next election, especially now that Rudy Giuliani, the man who was rumored to be Trump’s original AG, is set to join Trump’s legal team.