Although Sessions got the boot this week, Graham vowed instead to work with Trump to find a confirmable, worthy successor.
Video: Hundreds gather in Collier County to protest the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Its clear to me its not working, was not working, between Attorney General Sessions and President Trump, Graham said. So for months now, Ive been saying after the election, if the president wants to change attorney generals, he has every right to do so.
Back in July 2016, Christie was widely viewed as a contender for Trumps running mate, but Mike Pence got the job instead. Commenting on Trumps pick, Christie said he wanted to finish his term as New Jersey governor. Later, he was viewed as a likely pick for Trumps attorney general, but Sessions was given the job instead, leading to a cascade of “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” memes.
Breaking bad: Low-grade right-wing hack is now our nations leading law enforcement officer
Graham also said that despite the changes at the Justice Department, special counsel Robert Mueller will be allowed to do his job and hopefully that investigation will come to a conclusion here pretty soon.
Christie has said on numerous occasions that he believes Trump has been “ill-served” by some of his top advisers; he is also a critic of the special counsel probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Sessions recused himself from the probe, a decision that rankled the president.
Less than 24 hours after the polls had closed in the midterm elections — and immediately after President Trump had delivered one of his most petulant press conference tantrums ever — the word went forth that Trump had finally rid himself of hated Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the man whose only crime against him was to follow the rules. It's been obvious since the day Sessions made clear that he held to the old-fashioned notion that, in order to function as the highest law enforcement official in the country, his personal reputation and appearance of integrity were more important than fealty to the president, his days were numbered.
Trump tried hard to get him to quit but Sessions refused to leave his dream job until he had remade the country into Alabama, circa 1952. He made a good stab at it, even gratuitously granting police even more power, as one last slap in the face to civil libertarians, on his way out the door. But Trump's ego just couldn't allow Sessions to stay in the job, no matter how skillfully and efficiently he was carrying out the president's agenda.
Trump didn't do the normal thing and put the deputy attorney general in charge until a new person could be confirmed by the Senate. Of course he didn't. He named a completely unqualified toady by the name of Matthew Whitaker, who had been serving as Sessions' chief of staff for the past year. Nobody seems to know exactly how he came to have that particular job, but what we know is that Whitaker was a small-time political player from Iowa who once served as a U.S. attorney and ran unsuccessfully for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in the 2014 midterms. More recently he was a crony of Sam Clovis, the Iowa politico who worked on the Trump campaign, got himself all caught up in the Russia investigation and had to resign his sinecure at the Department of Agriculture.
Whitaker has also worked as a sole practitioner for a right-wing, dark-money-funded organization called the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), where he disseminated "legal opinions" in the media in support of Republican politics. Clovis reportedly advised him to go to New York and become a Trump defender on TV in order to get noticed by the president so he could get a judicial appointment. CNN hired him, naturally.
Sessions, who recused himself from control of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, has been replaced by acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker, who has said he has no intention of recusing from the Russia probe and is not believed to approve any subpoena of Trump as part of that investigation. Whitaker has written opinion pieces about the investigation and is a friend and political ally of a grand jury witness.
In other words, Whitaker is a political hack, and not a particularly high-level one. But he apparently impressed Trump with his extreme sycophancy, so he went directly from guest hits on CNN to being the attorney general's chief of staff. And now he is the acting attorney general of the United States.
Whitaker said in a statement: “It is a true honor that the president has confidence in my ability to lead the Department of Justice as Acting Attorney General. I am committed to leading a fair department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law and seeks justice for all Americans.”
Video: Demonstrators March Through Philadelphia In Support Of Mueller Investigation
Vail Valley residents speak up in response to new attorney general
This shouldn't be too surprising, really. Recall that Trump wanted to make his personal pilot the head of the FAA. He brought in his totally inexperienced son-in-law to run his Middle East policy and much else. His daughter is a senior staffer. He liked the White House physician and tried to appoint him as secretary of Veterans Affairs. That's how things work in Trumpworld.
Of course, there's more to it than that. Whitaker spent his time in the media during the summer of 2017 vociferously defending Trump against Robert Mueller's investigation which he is now overseeing. David Corn of Mother Jones reported on a radio interview in which Whitaker claimed that the president has unlimited power over the Justice Department:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaking at the U.S. Marshals Service 37th Director's Honorary Awards Ceremony, at the Department of Justice in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
There is no case for obstruction of justice because the president has all the power of the executive and delegates that to people like the FBI director and the attorney general…The president could and has in our nations history said stop investigating this person or please investigate this other person.
Referring to the Comey firing, he said Theres really nothing here … This is power that is completely vested in the president … If he wanted to he could have told Jim [Comey] to stop investigating former [Defense Intelligence Agency] director Flynn. And he didnt … Im sure he made his preference known. Quite frankly, hes president of the United States. He can do that.
The Daily Beast reported that Whitaker has stated unequivocally that there was no collusion during the 2016 Trump campaign:
The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign. There was interference by the Russians into the election, but that was not collusion with the campaign. Thats where the left seems to be combining those two issues.The last thing they want right now is for the truth to come out, and for the fact that theres not a single piece of evidence that demonstrates that the Trump campaign had any illegal or any improper relationships with the Russians. Its that simple … The real Russian ties were with Hillary Clinton.
The bigger question may be whether Trump even allows the Mueller investigation to continue at all. It is unclear whether Whitaker will recuse himself as Sessions did. However, given his past comments and personal ties, there has been rampant speculation that Whitaker could curtail Muellers investigation. High-ranking former Justice Department officials and other commentators have raised doubts about the constitutionality of Trumps appointment of Whitaker. Those doubts could form the substance of legal challenge to the validity of any moves Whitaker might make to curtail the investigation.
According to CNN's Andrew Kaczynski, who gathered many of these quotes, Whitaker has also already concluded there was no obstruction of justice either:
However, its possible that Mueller will follow a different example entirely. He could adopt the strategy used in a previous high-profile special counsel investigation: the Bush-era probe into the leak of CIA official Valerie Plames name and clandestine status. That investigation, which was led by Muellers close friend Patrick Fitzgerald, did not rely on reports to communicate information to Congress or the public. Instead, recognizing that the regulations he operated under called for no public reports, Fitzgerald spoke only through indictments and prosecutions.
"Let's assume that the President asked him to stop investigating Flynn. That doesn't rise to the level of obstruction of justice and it doesn't sound to me, based on what's been reported, that Jim Comey, as he sat there, believed that the President was telling him to stop the investigation."
Report: Chris Christie being considered to replace Sessions as AG
The Washington Post reported that two people close to Whitaker said he does not plan to recuse himself from the Russia case. They also said he likely won't approve any presidential subpoena, which undoubtedly has made Rudy Giuliani very happy. Who needs the aggravation?
Top Democrats want documents on Sessions departure
LISTEN: Trump pick to replace Sessions says a lawyer must recuse even if there's just "an appearance" of bias pic.twitter.com/dqep2szB41
CNN reported late on Thursday that the White House is surprised by all the blowback and starting to get worried. Trump staffers had no idea Whitaker was anything more than a cheap flack who'd been flapping his lips all over the media about the Mueller investigation for months before he mysteriously became Sessions' right-hand man:
Protect Robert Mueller protest draws crowd
It was not widely known among White House staff that he'd commented repeatedly on the special counsel's investigation in interviews and on television — which is ironic given that this is what drew President Donald Trump to him and raises continued questions over the depth of the administration's vetting process.
There has been much anticipation that the Mueller investigation is coming to a head. Something may have even happened already. But you have to wonder if this man Whitaker is going to end up going the Anthony Scaramucci route. (That is, his tenure in the administration could be very short.) It kind of feels that way.
The question is how much damage this ill-fated acting A.G. can do before he exits the scene. (He already got to work issuing a new and probably unlawful order that requires asylum seekers to apply only at authorized ports of entry.) If nothing else, Whitaker will have been briefed on all the details of the Mueller investigation, and has undoubtedly already shared every single one of them with Donald Trump. That's what he's there for. It's all right out in the open.