Following the news that President Donald Trump had replaced Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, there was speculation about who would fill the Cabinet post for the long-term.
Much of that attention was focused on Sen. Lindsey Graham.
An aide to the South Carolina Republican said “no, no, no,” when asked if Graham would be interested in replacing Sessions and acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker, according to the Associated Press.
Shortly after that, Graham posted his own statement about replacing Sessions. His tweets did not eliminate the possibility that Graham could leave his seat in the U.S. Senate to join the Trump administration.
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“Jeff Sessions served our nation well and honorably as Attorney General. He has dedicated his whole life to conservatism and upholding the Rule of Law,” Graham wrote on Twitter. “I look forward to working with President Donald Trump to find a confirmable, worthy successor so that we can start a new chapter at the Department of Justice and deal with both the opportunities and challenges our nation faces.
“As to me, I will be part of a larger Republican majority in the United States Senate — working with the President and my Republican and Democratic colleagues — to make America safer and more prosperous.”
Whether Trump seeks Graham’s counsel or not, Graham will have his say on the president’s nominee.
Graham is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That group will determine if a nominee is confirmed by Congress.
That was the committee that led the hearings on Brett Kavanaugh before he was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Graham drew national attention for his strong support of Kavanaugh.
According to a letter he wrote to Trump, Sessions “submitted his resignation” at the request of the president.
Trump tweeted about the shakeup, announcing Whitaker’s appointment and thanking Sessions for his service. In those tweets, the president said “a permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date.”
Graham has softened his stance on Trump removing Sessions from his position as attorney general. During an Oct. 31, 2017, interview in the Capitol, Graham then said “If Jeff Sessions is fired there will be Holy Hell to pay,” video shows.
Sessions’ departure casts a shadow on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Mueller was appointed to look into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and obstruction of justice after Sessions recused himself from the investigation.
When Graham was asked by Fox News personality Sean Hannity if Whitaker will recuse himself from the investigation, South Carolina’s senior senator pushed back, The Hill reported.
“Uh no. I don’t know why he would. He wasn’t part of the campaign was he?” Graham said.
If Graham were to leave the Senate to become attorney general, his replacement would be selected by a longtime Trump ally — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.
In S.C., the governor will appoint a person to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That appointee would serve “until the next regularly-scheduled, statewide general election.”
McMaster was the Palmetto State’s lieutenant governor when he endorsed then-candidate Trump prior to the “First in the South” primary in 2016, becoming the first statewide elected official to back Trump. McMaster ascended to governor when Trump appointed Nikki Haley to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
On Tuesday, McMaster earned his first full term as governor with an Election Day victory over Democrat James Smith, The State reported. He had Trump’s endorsement, and the president made two trips to South Carolina during the Republican primaries to lend his support to McMaster.