Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa seems like a hick from the cornfields but is actually one of the most powerful people in Washington. He is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and may single-handedly be protecting Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein from being fired by President Donald Trump.
Yesterday there was a blockbuster story in the New York Times about Trump asking Sessions to unrecuse himself from oversight of the Russia investigation. In this article it was mentioned that no matter how unhappy Trump is with Sessions he can’t fire the Attorney General because he is being protected by powerful Republicans in the Senate. And Grassley is the powerful senator who is on record more than once over the past year stating that Trump shouldn’t fire Sessions — or Mueller.
Grassley has made clear that he wouldn’t be willing to approve any new Attorney General. Sessions spent many years in the Senate, and his GOP former colleagues there like him better than they like Trump. And so they are protecting the Attorney General.
In case there is any doubt of this, just look at this tweet sent out by Grassley in July of last year:
“Everybody in D.C. Shld b warned that the agenda for the judiciary Comm is set for rest of 2017. Judges first subcabinet 2nd / AG no way”
Everybody in D.C. Shld b warned that the agenda for the judiciary Comm is set for rest of 2017. Judges first subcabinet 2nd / AG no way
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) July 27, 2017
This tweet was interpreted by everyone as being a warning shot telling Trump that if he terminates Sessions from his role at the Justice Department there will be no replacement confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
News articles at the time also reported that Grassley’s position was being supported by Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other GOP senators who were friends of Sessions. Graham, who is also a member of the Judiciary Committee, told CNN in July that “there will be no confirmation hearing for a new attorney general.”
In April of this year Grassley stated in an interview: “It would be suicide for the president to want to talk about firing Mueller.”
The Associated Press today picked up on this story and has an in-depth piece that gives many more details about how Sessions is being protected by Republicans in Washington.
Many people seem to think that if Trump fires Sessions, the president can appoint a new Attorney General and that new person would control the Trump-Russia investigation and could shut it down and fire Bob Mueller.
However a new Attorney General must be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and as chairman Senator Grassley sets the agenda for the committee. Not even Mitch McConnell can tell Grassley what is on the agenda for his committee. So if Grassley says there won’t be hearings on a new AG then there will be no new AG, period.
If Trump fired Sessions, Rosenstein would become Acting Attorney General, and he would be in control of the special counsel’s investigation– just the way he is now. If Trump then fired Rosenstein a new Justice Department official would become Acting Attorney General. This means the president simply can’t appoint one of his lackeys into the role who would do whatever he tells him to do and fire Mueller.
Trump is smart enough to know that there would be no point in even trying to get a new Attorney General. This means both Sessions’ and Rosenstein’s jobs are safe — and so is the Mueller investigation.