- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2017

Activists are calling on the Senate to hold pro forma sessions throughout August to deny President Trump recess appointment powers, fearful that he might take any opening to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and impose a new Justice Department chief who would derail the Russia investigation.

With Mr. Trump repeatedly blasting Mr. Sessions, a longtime ally who is now on the outs with the president, the groups said they wanted assurances from Congress.

They fired off a letter to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asking for pro forma sessions to be held regularly, which under a Supreme Court ruling several years ago would be sufficient to deny Mr. Trump his recess powers.

Senate Republicans were planning on taking a several-week vacation at the end of August, but have not revealed their plans for whether they’ll hold pro forma sessions during that time.

“I don’t have any scheduling guidance,” said McConnell spokesman David Popp.

President Obama attempted an end-run around Congress in 2012, making recess appointments even though the Senate was meeting in pro forma sessions specifically to deny him that opportunity. The Supreme Court, in a 9-0 spanking, said he had overstepped his powers and said the Senate, not the president, gets to decide whether the chamber is in session.

Republicans could be tempted to go on a full recess in August to give Mr. Trump a chance to fill some of the other slots in the appointments backlog that’s built up thanks to Democratic obstruction.

Democrats have been attempting filibusters, using procedural hurdles and forcing the full clock to run on most of Mr. Trump’s picks — erecting an unprecedented level of hurdles.

Mr. McConnell canceled two weeks of the planned August vacation to try to make some headway on nominees.

Mr. Trump has expressed outrage at the ongoing probe of his campaign aides’ dealings with Russia. He has also said he wished Mr. Sessions hadn’t recused himself from those issues, because that recusal left the decision to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed a special counsel to investigate.

That investigation has been a continuing thorn for the White House.

Under current rules, Mr. Trump cannot fire special counsel Robert Mueller. But if Mr. Trump were to appoint a new attorney general, analysts said that person could oust Mr. Mueller or curtail the scope of his probe.

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