House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff rebuked “two GOP senators” for comments signaling a possible openness to President Donald Trump’s call to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “not something you would have ever heard John McCain say.”
“Look what happened after the President started attacking his own attorney general for not getting rid of Bob Mueller and persecuting his political rivals,” Schiff told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday. “You had two prominent GOP senators say, ‘well, if he wants to get rid of the [attorney general], we will help him get a new one, but let’s wait until after the midterms.’ That is not something you would have ever heard John McCain say.” Schiff added, “We need people like John McCain now more than ever.”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, for whom McCain was a longtime friend and mentor, told CNN on Thursday that “after the election, I think there will be some serious discussions about a new attorney general.”
“Replacing him before the election would be a nonstarter,” Graham added. “The idea of having a new attorney general in President Trump’s first term is very likely.”
Graham is one of the first Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to suggest he might be open to Trump ousting Sessions in his first term. 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 special counsel’s Russia investigation, saying he never took control of the Department of Justice.
Graham had also warned in late July that there would “be holy hell to pay” if Trump fired Sessions.
On Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley told CNN that despite not having time previously, he could make time for any new nominations after handling Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation this fall – but added that such a move had nothing to do with Sessions.
“When we get Kavanaugh done, we’re going to have time [for] anything that’s in my jurisdiction that the President sends up that we have to do,” Grassley said. “But that’s unrelated to any questions that people are floating around about Sessions right now.”
Schiff praised Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse for opposing Sessions’ possible firing.
Sasse said Thursday on the Senate floor, “I find it really difficult to envision any circumstance where I would vote to confirm a successor to Jeff Sessions if he is fired because he is executing his job, rather than choosing to act as a partisan hack.”
“I was proud to see Ben Sasse take issue with that,” Schiff told Tapper. “That was very John McCain-like.”
Schiff on impeachment
In light of McCain’s passing, Schiff also lamented the lack of Republicans in Congress willing to stand up to Trump and the implications that could have on impeachment proceedings, should such evidence emerge.
Schiff’s comments come after news last week that Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts and implicated the President by admitting in court that he, “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” kept information that would have harmed Trump from becoming public during the 2016 election.
Asked about the Cohen news and whether Democrats are concerned that any talk of impeachment could hurt them in the midterm elections, Schiff said he wants to consider all of the evidence before making a judgment on whether the President committed an impeachable offense.
“Well, it’s not just, I think, that Democrats don’t want to talk about impeachment,” Schiff said. “I think as a matter of our constitutional responsibility, we have to look candidly at what is the evidence, and what does that mean and what does that say in terms of whether we’ve reached the point of high crimes and misdemeanors. But I don’t think we should be talking about it and embracing before we have seen the full body of evidence. As a former prosecutor, I like to know all the facts before I make a judgment and the reality is, impeachment is a political standard.
“Impeachment is at any given time what half of the House and two-thirds of the Senate say it is,” Schiff continued. “And given the dearth of people in the GOP who are willing to say anything about this president’s conduct, I think you’re going to need a really powerful case to entertain that kind of a sanction.”