Senate Republicans are getting more aggressive in fighting back at President Trump’s attacks on Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsGOP Senate candidates race to align with TrumpHouse Dem jests: It’s ‘nice’ that not all male colleagues interrupt herHatch: Trump’s Sessions attacks bad for presidencyMORE.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamHatch: Trump’s Sessions attacks bad for presidencyGraham: ‘DHS Secretary Jeff Sessions doesn’t sound right’Sunday Show Preview: Washington recovers from healthcare fallout in the Senate MORE (R-S.C.) says there will be “hell to pay” if Sessions is fired, while Sen. Charles GrassleyChuck GrassleyHatch: Trump’s Sessions attacks bad for presidencyGrassley to Trump: ‘Tell Scaramucci not to use that filthy language around me’How do you get lower cost drugs? Give the FDA a bigger stickMORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, warned he won’t hold hearings to confirm a successor to Sessions.
“The agenda for the judiciary [committee] is set for the rest of 2017. Judges first subcabinet 2nd/ AG no way,” he tweeted.
Senate Republicans also quickly slammed the door on the possibility that Trump could use recess appointment powers to get around Grassley.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” said Sen. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeSunday Show Preview: Washington recovers from healthcare fallout in the Senate Senate GOP steps up defense of SessionsThe Hill’s 12:30 ReportMORE (R-Ariz.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, who said Republicans will hold pro-forma sessions every few days to block Trump from making recess appointments.
“If we have to stay in session to protect Sessions, we’d do so,” he said.
Trump’s rough treatment of Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse his presidential campaign last year — and for months was the only member of the upper chamber to back his unorthodox candidacy — has unsettled many Republican senators.
It’s more evidence of what they see as the president’s mercurial nature and his disdain for Washington’s conventions.
A senior GOP aide said Trump’s consideration of a recess appointment to replace Sessions was completely out of step with the Senate recent tradition of holding pro-forma sessions every few days of a break to prevent such action.
If the chamber convenes every few days — even for a few minutes — then it is not, technically, on recess and, therefore, the president cannot make recess appointments.
The heated back-and-forth between Trump and Republican senators over Sessions came at a delicate moment, as Senate GOP leaders sought to win passage of an ObamaCare repeal bill. Their effort failed after three Republicans — all of whom have tangled with Trump — voted against it.
Trump’s rhetoric appears to have hurt more than helped him with senators.
“This effort to basically marginalize and humiliate the attorney general is not going over well in the Senate. I don’t think it’s going over well in the conservative world,” Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters Thursday. “If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay.”
Grassley’s move found few if any critics in the GOP conference. In fact, many rushed to back him up. One GOP senator called his tweet “masterful.”
The use of pro forma sessions to block recess appointments isn’t unusual.
Then Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidGOP senator calls for new rules to more quickly confirm Trump nomineesSenate GOP steps up defense of SessionsConservative Senate candidate calls on GOP to end filibusterMORE (Nev.) insisted on such pro-forma sessions in 2007 to block President George W. Bush from making recess appointments and Republicans did the same under President Obama.
What’s unusual here, is that Republicans are vowing to use the tactic to thwart a president from their own party.
Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), one of the Senate’s most senior Republicans, said Trump’s criticism of Sessions is out of line.
“It’s a mistake for the president. I don’t think you should be brutalizing Sessions or anybody, someone who’s been loyal to him,” said Shelby, who often worked closely with Sessions when he served in the Senate.
Trump has repeatedly expressed his frustration and disappointment with Sessions for recusing himself from the Department of Justice’s investigation of Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election.
Senate Republicans, however, are defending his decision, noting he followed department guidelines.
Sessions served as a senior advisor to Trump’s campaign.
“I would hope the president would want Sessions to stay on because I think ultimately he did the right thing in recusing himself,” Shelby added.
Republicans are acting partly out of friendship to Sessions but also out of concern that Trump may be laying the groundwork to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is leading the investigation of possible collusion between Russian agents and Trump’s inner circle of family and advisers.
They worry Trump might pick a new attorney general who would go on to dismiss Mueller.
Graham warned that such a move could provoke a constitutional crisis.
He is working on legislation would require judicial review of any presidential decision to fire a special counsel to determine whether it complied with the law.
He predicted it would have a large number of Republican and Democratic co-sponsors.
“Any effort to go after Mueller could be beginning of the end of the Trump presidency unless Mueller did something wrong. Right now I have no reason to believe Mueller is compromised,” Graham warned.
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