Mr. Sessions isn’t currently planning to leave, but privately has said that he anticipates he may be asked to resign, according to people familiar with the matter. The attorney general, who was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign, has told people the request may come on the president’s Twitter feed.
“This is actually the dumbest thing I’ve been asked to comment on in a while,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores.
..Replacing Mr. Sessions would present legal and political quandaries for the president.
.. Mr. Trump must find a successor who could win Senate confirmation, a job that senators say is harder given the president’s public suggestions that he wants a political ally as attorney general.
.. Many GOP senators are advocating for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) to succeed Mr. Sessions, especially after Mr. Graham’s vocal defense last week of now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
.. “As I think about people who could be confirmed to that position in the Senate, Lindsey Graham is at the top of my list,” said John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican. “In fact, I can’t think of anybody else right now who could get confirmed.”.. Mr. Graham called Mr. Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot.” Mr. Trump said Mr. Graham was a “lightweight” and an “idiot,” and gave out Mr. Graham’s mobile number during a campaign rally... Another purported candidate, Sessions chief of staff Matthew Whitaker, has allies in the White House but also detractors, according to people familiar with the matter. As a commentator on CNN, Mr. Whitaker expressed skepticism about the special counsel probe and urged limits on its scope, a position likely to raise objections from Democrats and some Republicans... That leaves, for now at least, the five individuals currently under discussion at the White House. Three of them—Messrs. Azar, Bradbury and Sullivan—are serving in Senate-confirmed positions. They would have to be reconfirmed to serve as attorney general, but may have an advantage from having already won Senate approval.
Trump has been complaining about her ever since she became head of D.H.S., in December. He didn’t like that she had once served in the Bush Administration, or that Fox News personalities such as Ann Coulter and Lou Dobbs considered her an “open-borders zealot.”
.. illegal border crossings declined, but they began rising last year—as many analysts expected they would, owing to continued violence in Central America.
.. Part of Nielsen’s job also involved talking the President down when he floated his own ideas for curbing immigration, many of which he picked up from Fox News. This didn’t endear her to the President, either.
.. two of her most prominent backers from the Bush Administration—Michael Chertoff, a former head of D.H.S., and Frances Townsend, a former homeland-security adviser at the White House—were part of the “Never Trump” movement.
.. Since John Kelly was a retired four-star general who, at the time, enjoyed good standing with the President, disgruntled immigration hard-liners were reluctant to criticize him; they directed their frustration toward Nielsen, instead.
.. The irony is that, since becoming the D.H.S. Secretary, Nielsen has shown herself to be both an extremely tough-minded enforcer of Trump’s immigration agenda and an enthusiastic spokesperson for his Administration.
.. “You can’t be seen as the lapdog of the White House,” one of them said. “That makes the department into a political football.”
.. Nielsen’s embrace of the President’s rhetoric on immigration had politicized the department’s broader mission.
.. While Trump was questioning Nielsen’s place in his Administration this winter and spring, she was forced to try to prove her loyalty.
.. Earlier this month, D.H.S. and the Justice Department announced a new “zero tolerance” policy at the border, vowing to prosecute all unauthorized border crossers, including asylum seekers, for entering the country illegally. One outgrowth of the policy is that parents and their children will be separated once they’re taken into custody. The Administration initially justified its stance by insisting that breaking up families would act as a deterrent, to scare away other families that might try to cross the border
.. “You have to ask yourself,why is she doing what’s she’s doing?” the official told me. “It’s not because she really wants to do it. It’s all posture.”
.. The border wall was another source of contention. Republicans in Congress skimped on funding it in the omnibus bill earlier this year. “That was an insult to the President,” the official said. “And a lot of that is on Nielsen. It was up to her to convince Congress to fund all this.”
.. there is “a cabal of anti-immigration people sprinkled throughout the government. A lot of them used to work for Jeff Sessions, and they all talked.” This group disliked Nielsen, but she survived, in part, because she has had the support of John Kelly.
.. There are additional similarities in how Kelly and Nielsen have handled confrontations with Trump.
.. Kelly, too, has reportedly threatened to resign at times when he couldn’t corral the President.
.. Nielsen does have some leverage. It will be difficult, if not almost impossible, to find a replacement for her—someone who can both appease the President and get confirmed by the Senate.
.. “The Administration can’t get rid of Nielsen. She doesn’t even have a deputy right now to fill in for her if she leaves.”
It all stems from President Trump’s contempt for the rule of law.
.. in a quasi-normal political environment, would have led to an impeachment investigation.
.. Richard Nixon earned eternal disgrace for keeping a list of his political enemies, but he, at least, was ashamed enough of the practice to know that he had to keep it secret. Trump, in contrast, is openly calling for the Department of Justice, which he controls, to put his political opponents in jail.
This kind of behavior is a trademark of the authoritarians he admires, like Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
.. Trump sent Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, to urge Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, not to recuse himself from supervising the investigation. Trump did so because he felt that Sessions should be protecting him. “Where’s my Roy Cohn?”
.. Trump asked for loyalty from James Comey, the F.B.I. director, who was supervising the investigation. When Comey equivocated, Trump fired him, then put out a false story for why he did so
.. Trump’s contempt for the rule of law infects his entire Administration
.. Sessions has installed acting U.S. Attorneys in much of the country—including in such high-profile locations as Manhattan and Los Angeles—and senators can’t exert any oversight of them.
.. This gesture of contempt for the Senate’s role in confirmations
.. Trump has nominated many fewer officials to Senate-confirmed positions than his predecessors; instead, Cabinet secretaries have filled these crucial positions with acting or temporary officials who avoid scrutiny