And Senators Who’d Warned Trump There’d Be Hell To Pay If He Fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions Now Indicate They’d Be OK With It
In an interview with his favorite show, Fox & Friends, Trump said he has “great respect” for his former campaign Chairman and now convicted felon, Paul Manafort.
But when it comes to his own Justice Department, and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, not so much. “I put an Attorney General that never took control of the Justice Department.”
That’s right, you did: all of them were your hires. (So were Omarosa and Michael Cohen–who now you say was small potatoes and “not somebody who was with me that much”…for over 10 years…)
Trump’s main argument in defense of Manafort–other than the fact that he wasn’t a rat–is that the crimes Manafort committed were not that outlandish: the kind of things most rich people do with some frequency and mostly get away with. (An argument one would think would not play that well with his base. But then again, who knows his base better than Trump?)
For his part, Sessions swiftly shot back with a pointed statement. Here it is in full:
That’s a rather remarkable statement. Because while Sessions is saying he’s more than happy to zealously promote Trump’s dastardly agenda, maybe he has hung on to a scintilla of honor.
And maybe this interaction reveals a fatal flaw on Trump’s part: since he lies and behaves unethically all the time, he thinks everybody else does too. Which by and large is true. Except everybody else will draw a line somewhere.
Trump this morning responded by urging Sessions to launch a bunch of politically motivated investigations. And to top that, he defended NSA leaker Reality Winner, who was sentenced to 5 years this week, comparing her favorably to Hillary Clinton. And we thought there was nothing the President hated more than leakers…
When Trump’s talked about firing Sessions in the past, the former Senator’s ex-colleagues have formed a human shield around him, saying they’d make life a living hell for Trump if he pulled the trigger.
But now, according to Bloomberg, those same Senators are giving Trump an opening, as long as he waits until after the midterm elections. Senate Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham just a couple of months ago warned “there will be holy hell to pay” (Yes, that’s an actual quote), if Trump attempts to fire Sessions, adding that it would mark “the beginning of the end” of Trump’s Presidency. And Committee Chair Chuck Grassley said he’d refuse to hold hearings for Sessions’ replacement. Now, Bloomberg says, Graham’s saying this: “there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice“. And Grassley all of a sudden can find the time for hearings for a new Attorney General.
Why would they change their position now? Especially when Mueller is starting to deliver results, big time? We have no idea. Perhaps they want to set a countdown clock on Mueller’s investigation, because if the Special Counsel knows he’s likely to be hamstrung by the end of the year he might wrap it up?
From Trump’s perspective, firing Sessions–if that’s now an option open to him–is much, much easier than firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, or both. Because if he fires Sessions, he probably doesn’t have to fire Rosenstein or Mueller. Because whomever he names as Attorney General will not have recused himself from the Russia investigation (as Sessions did). and so could take it over from Rosenstein immediately, and as a result would be immediately directly in charge of the Mueller investigation.
Even more curiously, immediately after their heated back-and-forth, Sessions went up to the White House for a previously scheduled meeting with Trump to discuss sentencing drug dealers to the death penalty. So that part of the partnership is still thriving.
Quick Follow-up To Our Blind Speculation About What Was Going On In The Manafort Jury Room
We originally wrote:
“A closer look at the verdict in the Manafort case does seem to imply the jury did have problems with the testimony of Manafort’s former business partner and Trump campaign officer Rick Gates. We have no way of knowing this for sure, because identities of the jurors are secret, and none has come forward so far. At the same time, the charges on which Manafort was convicted seem to rely on Gates’ testimony the least (for instance, falsifying his tax returns). This could spell trouble if Mueller was planning on using Gates as a witness in other cases. Manafort’s defense team painted Gates — who admitted to embezzling huge amounts of money from Manafort (and possibly the Trump inauguration) — as the “real” criminal, arguing none of his testimony could be trusted.”
We now know quite a bit more about what went on in the jury room, and turns out our speculation (above) on the subject was dead on. Fox News spoke to one of the Manafort jurors, and she confirms what we guessed: that the jurors “agreed to throw out” the testimony of former Manafort partner Rick Gates, and base their decisions on the paperwork presented by the prosecution. The juror, Paula Duncan, said she’s an avid Trump supporter and drove to the trial every day with a “Make America Great Again” cap on the back seat of her car. She told Fox she really wanted Manafort to be innocent “but he wasn’t”. She says a single holdout on the jury prevented Manafort’s conviction on all counts; on the 10 hung counts, the vote was 11–1.
Here’s the Manafort jury verdict form, BTW, courtesy of CNN’s Katelyn Polantz: