Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that President Donald Trump could replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the midterm elections in November.
Graham’s comments make him one of the first Republicans on the Senate committee to signal an openness to Trump ousting Sessions in his first term.
In an interview with reporters Wednesday, the senator from South Carolina said ultimately it was up to Trump to decide who he wanted for the job and that while he personally likes Sessions, he said Trump deserved an attorney general he had “faith in.”
“The President’s entitled to having an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that is qualified for the job and I think 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. Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the President,” Graham said.
Graham added specifically, “That’s an important office in the country and after the election, I think there will be some serious discussions about a new Attorney General.”
The comments came after a Fox News interview in which Trump repeatedly disparaged Sessions and rebuked his Attorney General’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, saying he never took control of the Department of Justice.
“I put in an attorney general who never took control of the Justice Department. Jeff Sessions, never took control of the Justice Department. It’s sort of an incredible thing,” Trump said on Fox News.
The chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, had said repeatedly that he didn’t have time to confirm another attorney general with the long list of other nominees this year.
“My agenda is full,” he told CNN in July.
But Grassley said Thursday that his committee would have time to work through any new nominations once Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is approved by the committee later this year. He added, however, that his comments had nothing to do with Sessions.
“I’m not going to speculate on what the President might do. But I can tell you Jeff Sessions has always been a friend and is still a friend,” Grassley said. “When we get Kavanaugh done we’re going to have time — anything that’s in my jurisdiction that the President sends up that we have to do. But that’s unrelated to any questions that people are floating around about Sessions right now. Because I wouldn’t want to connect what I just told you about my having time with anything doing with Sessions.”
Graham had also warned in late July that there would “be holy hell to pay” if Trump fired Sessions.
Sen. Jeff Flake, a fellow Republican on the Judiciary Committee, took a different tact Thursday, saying that Trump shouldn’t fire Sessions even if it was within his right as President.
“He serves at the President’s pleasure, so the President can fire him. I sincerely hope that he doesn’t. People worry about about the domino—if Jeff Sessions goes, who’s next? Is it Rod Rosenstein? Obviously, the President’s comments yesterday, he just keeps going further and further,” Flake said. “Jeff Sessions did the right thing to recuse himself. And for the President to say otherwise just is simply wrong. So I hope that he stops trying to undermine the credibility of the Department of Justice, and let Jeff Sessions serve.”
CNN’s Jonah Eatman contributed to this report.