Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation letter is only a few hours old, but people are already speculating about his replacement. Granted, Sessions’ exit has been all but formalized for months now, and many people suspect that President Donald Trump already has a plan for how he will move forward. More information will emerge in the coming days, but several potential candidates already seem to be gaining steam.
For the time being, Matthew Whitaker is the Acting Attorney General. Until now, he has been acting as Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff, and he will remain the new acting AG until Trump’s replacement is confirmed by the Senate.
In terms of a permanent attorney general, Senator Lindsey Graham’s name is already being tossed around in many circles. Of course, Graham has said he’s not interested in the position. However, it has been hard for people to miss how fully his attitude toward the president has changed in the past year and it has been speculated that becoming attorney general might be his endgame.
As the Washington Examiner notes, Trump has reportedly tossed around the idea of moving Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar into the attorney general position. Azar’s team has previously denied this as a possibility, but it sounds as if the president has at least wanted to consider the idea.
"With Sessions gone, Trump will be looking for a replacement who sees the law the way he does: a set of rules that applies to his enemies but not to himself or the charmed circle that surrounds him," argues @AdamSerwer: https://t.co/PhACVOXmyh
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) November 7, 2018
Another unconventional possibility is Kris Kobach, the secretary of state in Kansas who failed to win Tuesday’s gubernatorial race there. Roll Call points out that choosing Kobach could set the stage for a difficult battle in terms of a confirmation. However, Trump seems to love a confirmation battle and it’s widely known that he’s a fan of Kobach’s, even after the failed voter fraud commission he led.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump already has a shortlist of potential candidates, and retired appeals court judge Janice Rogers Brown is supposedly on the list. The Federalist endorses Brown as a potential candidate, and she could be a pick who would fall in sync with Trump’s agenda yet bring the credentials to avoid the type of battle that could come with someone like Kobach.
Other people have been named in various circles as a speculative replacement for Sessions. Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general who is soon leaving the position, has long had a positive relationship with Trump and her name has landed on some potential shortlists.
It was so great to see the best Attorney General in US, my good friend @PamBondi – All of us that supported and her for AG, myself and @realDonaldTrump, are very proud of her! Thank you for your exceptional service. There will be more. pic.twitter.com/LYbrc3mTKU
— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) November 5, 2018
Bondi reportedly was under consideration for a spot in the administration two years ago. However, she may have her sights set on private-sector work that would be more financially lucrative than taking on the attorney general gig for Trump.
There are certainly other potential candidates as well and there is no shortage of speculation in the wake of Sessions’ resignation. Senator Ted Cruz would be a pick who would generate a lot of buzz and he’s certainly embraced Trump after having a difficult relationship with him during the 2016 campaign.
Cruz just beat Beto O’Rourke in Texas in order to maintain his senatorial seat, but some think offering Cruz the opportunity would almost make perfect sense at this point. Chuck Grassley and Mike Lee are names that have emerged as possibilities in some circles, and the WSJ named former Attorney General Bill Barr, Transportation Department general counsel Steven Bradbury, and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan as people who are on the supposed shortlist as well.
Will President Donald Trump go for a candidate who will get people talking, just as Graham, Cruz, Bondi, or Kobach would likely do? Or will the president go with someone who is perhaps less well-known to the general public and who may seem like a relatively easy person to confirm in the coming months? The decision to get rid of Attorney General Jeff Sessions so quickly after the midterm elections ended is causing waves across the nation, and everybody will be eager to see who is nominated as his permanent replacement.