FILE – In this June 13, 2017, file photo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, as he testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about his role in the firing of James Comey, his Russian contacts during the campaign and his decision to recuse from an investigation into possible ties between Moscow and associates of President Donald Trump. Trump’s withering invective about Sessions over the last week suggests an effort to pressure the attorney general into resigning with a possible eye toward replacing him and ending the Justice Department investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. (Alex Brandon, File/Associated Press)
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s startlingly public criticism of Jeff Sessions over the last week suggests an effort to pressure the attorney general into resigning with a possible eye toward replacing him and ending the Justice Department investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Trump has shown one attorney general the door already. His January dismissal of Sally Yates had limited repercussions since she was an Obama administration holdover days away from her own departure. But firing or forcing out Sessions could set off a frenzied — and confusing — chain reaction of monumental consequences.
A Sessions ouster would be seen as key to ultimately removing Robert Mueller, the special counsel and former FBI director investigating potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. But Trump, infuriated by Session’s own recusal from the probe, would need to find a new ally in the Justice Department willing to take that step — which may not be easy.
A look at potential scenarios:
THE ORDINARY SUCCESSION PLAN
If Trump follows Justice Department protocol and his own executive order outlining a succession plan, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would immediately become acting attorney general until a permanent successor is nominated and confirmed by the Senate.
That would leave the president, at least immediately, with another attorney general of whom he has been sharply critical. Rosenstein would continue to oversee Mueller’s investigation, and there is no time limit on how long he could serve in an acting capacity.
ELEVATING THE DEPUTY
The point person for Mueller’s probe within the Justice Department, Rosenstein has not been spared from Trump’s ire. Trump lashed out at him in a New York Times interview last week, suggesting he couldn’t be a loyal Republican if he’s from Baltimore, even though he actually grew up outside of Philadelphia, and…