Trump lawyer counselled him against firing Sessions

2018-05-31 15:11
US President Donald Trump speaks about North Korea before signing the "Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act," in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

US President Donald Trump speaks about North Korea before signing the "Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act," in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

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US President Donald Trump's lawyer has repeatedly counselled him not to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions despite the president's ongoing anger at the attorney general's decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe.

Rudy Giuliani told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Trump has asked him multiple times, before and after the former New York City mayor joined the president's legal team last month, about whether Sessions should have been fired.

"I don't think the president should do it and I've told him so," said Giuliani.

Giuliani said Trump consulted him last summer during the height of his rage about Sessions' recusal. More recently, he said, Trump has not actively considered firing Sessions, but has wondered if he made the right decision in not doing so previously.

"And when he asks 'Should I have done that?' I say 'No, the way it is now has worked out'," Giuliani said.

The former mayor added that he did not believe Trump would fire Sessions. The president's anger at Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse his fledgling presidential campaign and has remained a loyal supporter, comes from the attorney general's move last year to recuse himself from the probe, a move Sessions said was in line with Department of Justice guidelines but Trump believes birthed the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller that is imperiling his presidency.

Trump's anger remains unabated and he suggested on Twitter again on Wednesday that he wishes he had never offered the job to Sessions. Giuliani stressed that Trump had every right – whether in person or on social media – to "express how he feels" about Sessions, but suggested it was a distraction to his legal team's efforts to fight back against the ongoing investigation.

"Instead of talking about Sessions, we want to be talking about Comey and Mueller," said Giuliani, invoking the former FBI director and the special counsel. "Public opinion is turning our way; we've had a great turnaround on this. We should be focused on that."

Some in Trump's inner circle have advised him against firing the attorney general because it could further ratchet up the pressure in the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election, as well as alienate a portion of the president's conservative base who have cheered Sessions' moves at the Justice Department. Moreover, a number of Sessions' former Republican colleagues in the Senate have indicated they would not hold confirmation hearings for a replacement attorney general.

This could change after the midterm elections in November. Republicans on Capitol Hill want to avoid unnecessary drama ahead of the elections, but once Mueller completes his investigation some are now suggesting it may then be time for Trump and Sessions to part ways.

The mood is a shift from just weeks ago when Republican senators in particular seemed prepared to go to the mat for Sessions as part of their broader efforts to stop Trump from firing Mueller.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who golfed over the holiday weekend with the president, says he has reinforced to Trump that "the best thing for the Republican Party right now is to keep focused on good governance in the midterms".

Graham says while he shares some of Trump's frustrations with the situation – particularly the Justice Department's resistance to appointing a second special counsel to investigate the handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe – he doesn't expect Sessions will depart "any time soon".

But Graham added, these are "not lifetime appointments". At some point, he said, Sessions will "have to make a decision" that if "you don't have the confidence" of the president, "that will affect your ability to be effective".

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