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Trump Spoke with Jeff Sessions' Chief of Staff About Possibly Replacing Him
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11 Oct 2018 05:36 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Matthew Whitaker (Image source: Public domain)

 

There's been talk for quite some time over whether or not Donald Trump would fire Jeff Sessions as attorney general. He's hinted at it often. According to sources, the president actually went as far as to speak to Sessions' chief of staff recently about replacing him.

 

Sessions showed his loyalty to Trump during his campaign, and it impressed him enough that he awarded him with the attorney general job. Shortly after that, Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, leaving it in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Trump has never been able to get past that. 

It hasn't appeared to affect Sessions as he carried out his job though. Trump even said at a certain point that he had no attorney general, relegating Sessions' work to nothing.

 

There was a conversation between Trump and Matthew Whitaker, Sessions' chief of staff. People who were briefed on the conversation but speaking on the condition of anonymity found it to be vague, as it wasn't clear whether he was looking for Whitaker to take over as an interim attorney or whether he would be nominated to fill the role permanently. 

Whitaker is a former University of Iowa football player. Later on he was a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa for five years and made a losing bid for a seat in the Senate in 2014. He was doing TV commentary and directing the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust before being hired as Sessions' chief of staff. 

Rosenstein's time has appeared limited through much of the year as well, as he's not doing anything to make the Russia investigation go away. But he, too, just keeps plugging along. What was not helpful to him was former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe reporting that a memo he had kept stated that Rosenstein suggested secretly recording Trump to trap him and using Amendment 25 to get rid of him constitutionally.

 

Rosenstein denied suggesting that but offered to resign anyway and made an appearance at the White House, thinking he was going to be fired. Whitaker was all ready to replace him in an acting capacity, leaving Noel Francisco, the solicitor general, to take over supervising the Russia investigation. 

Trump's conversation regarding Whitaker replacing Sessions occurred around that same time, according to the people briefed on the conversation.

 

Rosenstein stayed on, however, and Trump has said recently that he doesn't want to fire him. The deputy attorney general is still denying that he mentioned anything about wearing a wire and others have said the suggestion was meant as a joke. 

White House officials expect both Rosenstein and Sessions to retain their jobs until after the midterm elections next month. They're worried about hurting Republican chances if there's a big shakeup in the administration. Many expect them to be gone quickly after the elections, though, and it's not known how Whitaker will factor into the equation.

 

The attorney general's chief of staff wrote a column for CNN in September of last year stating that special counsel Robert Mueller had "come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing." 

If he becomes attorney general, he would be in a supervisory position over Mueller, but his past comments, including the CNN column, would be reviewed to see if he had any conflicts of interest.

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