Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s relationship with Jeff Sessions is “beyond repair” and suggested that the attorney general be replaced.
“The President has lost confidence in Jeff Sessions. I’m telling you what everybody in the country knows, this is a dysfunctional relationship, we need a better one,” the South Carolina Republican said in an interview on NBC News’ “Today” show.
“This relationship is beyond repair, I think,” Graham said. “I’m not asking him to be fired, but the relationship is not working.”
The President’s latest criticism of Sessions last Wednesday came the same week his former campaign chair Paul Manafort and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen were convicted and pleaded guilty, respectively, to various crimes, including bank fraud and tax fraud.
As one of Trump’s first supporters in the Senate and campaign surrogate, Sessions was tapped to helm the Justice Department and sworn in last February. But his relationship with the President soured when he made the decision a month later to step away from overseeing the department’s investigation into Russia and whether Trump campaign associates coordinated with Russia.
Sessions’ recusal left Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge, who eventually appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.
Since then, Trump has publicly aired his grievances with Sessions and complained to friends and allies about Sessions.
Graham said any replacement needs to be able to protect the special counsel.
“Is there somebody who’s highly qualified that has the confidence of the President, will also understand their job is to protect Mueller? Yes, I think we can find that person after the election if that’s what the President wants,” Graham said.
The South Carolina Republican appeared to suggest that there’s another reason Trump has been criticizing Sessions other than not ending Mueller’s investigation.
“It’s much deeper than that,” Graham told NBC News.
“We won’t say on this show, but it’s a pretty deep breach,” he said, without elaborating.
Last week, Graham became one of the first Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to signal an openness to Trump ousting Sessions in his first term when he said the President deserved an attorney general he had “faith in.”
Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy, another Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said that although Trump has the right to surround himself with his own Cabinet members, he would like to see Trump and Sessions sit down and work out their differences.
“I think Jeff Sessions is an honorable man. Having said that, he works for the President and if the President wants to make a change, the president can make a change,” Kennedy told CNN Tuesday on Capitol Hill. “I don’t understand why the President’s doing it the way he’s doing it, in terms of just not making the change if he’s unhappy. But that’s the President’s prerogative.”
He acknowledged that Graham may have inside information that Kennedy doesn’t have based on the South Carolina senator’s relationship with Trump. But Kennedy stated, as many other senators have, that it would be difficult to confirm a new nominee.
CNN’s Sunlen Serfaty, Ashley Killough, and Eli Watkins contributed to this report.