- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2018

President Trump spoke with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker about replacing Mr. Sessions, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Citing sources briefed on the matter, The Post said the conversation was vague and it was unclear if Mr. Whitaker would take over on an interim or permanent basis or how serious the president was about replacing Mr. Sessions.

During a Thursday interview on Fox News “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Trump avoided directly commenting on potentially replacing Mr. Sessions, but appeared to confirm having a conversation with Mr. Whitaker.

“I never talk about conversations I had,” he said.

In that same interview, the president also denied planning to fire Mr. Sessions, but he also did not offer much support for his beleaguered attorney general.

“I’m not doing anything. I want to get the elections over with. We’ll see what happens,” Mr. Trump said.

If Mr. Whitaker were to replace Mr. Sessions, he could take over special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between the Trump administration and Russia during the 2016 election. Mr. Sessions recused himself from the investigation, leaving oversight to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Mr. Trump has dismissed the investigation as “a hoax” and “a witch hunt.”

Both Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Sessions have landed in hot water with the president because of the Russia investigation. Last month, Mr. Trump told The Hill, “I don’t have an attorney general.” It was the latest in a series of blistering attacks on the nation’s top law enforcement official.

Speculation that Mr. Sessions would be fired picked up after Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, told Bloomberg News that Mr. Sessions would “very likely” be fired after the November midterm elections.

Mr. Rosenstein had his own conflict with the president after a New York Times report last month said he suggested secretly taping Mr. Trump and sought to remove him from the Oval Office via the 25th Amendment.

On Monday, Mr. Trump said he would not fire Mr. Rosenstein, ending weeks of speculation that the Justice Department would be without its second highest-ranking official.

Republican lawmakers sought to have Mr. Rosenstein appear before two House committees on Thursday, but one aide told The Washington Times that he would not be attending a closed-door meeting with Congress.

Mr. Trump told Fox News Thursday he was “surprised” that Mr. Rosenstein declined to testify to Congress about the report. He stressed that he has a good relationship with his deputy attorney general.

“He mentioned certain things to me that you know are very positive about that event, and I would imagine that you would want to put that down. And frankly, whether you were under oath or not shouldn’t matter,” the president said on “Fox & Friends.”

White House officials told The Post that they expect Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Sessions will have their jobs until after November’s midterm elections, fearing their removal could hurt Republicans locked in House an Senate races.


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