It’s no secret that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ days as Attorney General are numbered. The main questions are: (1) How will his exit be handled and (2) Who will replace him.
I have no insight as to the second question. One hears names like Matthew Whitaker (a former U.S. Attorney — and University of Iowa football player — who currently is Sessions’ chief of staff); Alex Azar, the Secretary of HHS (and not to confused with Alex Acosta); and Rep. John Ratcliffe (another former U.S. Attorney). However, I have no idea whether or to what degree these three (and others) are under consideration.
For me, a major concern is whether the new Attorney General will back leniency for drug felons legislation, something Sessions has vigorously opposed. I don’t know the answer to that question, either.
As for the first question, I believe the Sessions exit will be handled badly and without class. According to this report by the AP, some of Sessions’ influential conservative supporters are asking the White House to allow for a graceful exit. What does that mean?
A scenario advocated by at least one Sessions ally, former Cincinnati Mayor Ken Blackwell, would allow him to remain on the job until January and be permitted to resign on his own then rather than be fired immediately after the midterms. Blackwell said allies have made their case to administration officials that Sessions has successfully pushed the president’s core priorities, including on illegal immigration, and deserves some sort of recognition from the White House that “he has more than a passing grade.”
Newt Gingrich agrees with Blackwell. He says Sessions “deserves a graceful exit” and that “his career deserves a strong conclusion.”
Blackwell and Gingrich are right on the merits. But “graceful” typically isn’t Trump’s thing — Nikki Haley’s exit was an exception. It’s unrealistic to except graciousness from Trump toward someone who has pissed him off as much as Sessions has. That Sessions pissed Trump off by following honest (and in my view correct) legal ethics advice on recusal is of no moment to the president.
There may well be a mass exodus of cabinet members in the months following the upcoming election. Trump, I believe, will want to make sure Sessions’ departure can’t be disguised as part of the churn. Instead, he will want to single out Sessions for humiliation.
That seems to be the consensus among those AP interviewed for its story. I hope we’re wrong, but it would be out of character for Trump to act graciously towards Sessions. Even acting civilly may be too much to expect.