UPDATE: Giuliani says he's not being considered.
It’s pretty clear that President Trump is not happy with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As Guy noted, Trump blames Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation as the reason why we have Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who now is investigating the president’s business dealings and private financial records, including his tax records. Mueller has a wide mandate with his Russia probe, which has been making the Trump White House queasy. There’s even rumors that Trump might fire Mueller, which could lead to political disaster. Yet, separate from that is the notion that Sessions could be fired. Axios is reporting that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani could be on a list to replace Sessions. As with anything, let’s take this slow and Axios offers good reasons why Giuliani would be a tough sell for confirmation:
Our thought bubble: Trump often muses about possible personnel moves that he never makes, sometimes just to gauge the listener's reaction. So the Giuliani balloon may go nowhere.
As Axios reported Saturday, Newt Gingrich — who also went all-in with the Trump campaign — may take a more visible, frequent role as a defender as Trump girds for battle with special counsel Bob Mueller.
Giuliani would have a tough time getting 50 Republicans senators to vote to confirm him. He was such an early and ardent Trump backer that he wouldn't be seen as an independent guardian of the department in these tumultuous times.
In fact, the nomination could be seen as Trump throwing gasoline on a fire. And Giuliani's stop-and-frisk police policy as New York mayor, and clients since then, also would be controversial with many senators.
Sessions’ position as our top legal enforcer is being placed in doubt, with revelations that he did have conversations about the 2016 election with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, despite public declarations that no such conversations took place. Well, leaked intelligence intercepts paint a different story:
One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration. Sessions has said repeatedly that he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials and that it was only in his capacity as a U.S. senator that he met with Kislyak.
Here’s Guy’s analysis:
Is this clear-cut proof of perjury, or at least dishonesty? Maybe. Off the top of my head, I can think of possible defenses of Sessions: (1) Some Sessions defenders may claim that he only said the meetings were not explicitly set up as "about" the Trump campaign, which doesn't necessarily rule out the possibility that issues related to the campaign may have come up in conversation. But that's Clintonian parsing, at best. In another statement around that time, Sessions offered a broader denial, stating that he "never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign." Much less wiggle room there. (2) Others may ask whether Kislyak was lying or exaggerating to his superiors -- or perhaps being purposefully misleading, knowing that American intelligence might be listening in. The former notion is plausible, although that would mean he'd distorted the nature of his exchanges with Sessions on two separate occasions: "Current and former U.S. officials said [Sessions'] assertion is at odds with Kislyak’s accounts of conversations during two encounters over the course of the campaign, one in April ahead of Trump’s first major foreign policy speech and another in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention," the Post reports. The latter theory makes no sense. Setting aside Kislyak's subsequent public comments backing up Team Trump's contentions on the wider firestorm, there's no way Kislyak would have had the foresight to try to frame a future Attorney General, months before his eventual boss was even elected.
(3) The most innocent explanation here is a variant on the first item mentioned above, and involves divergent understandings of what would constitute "campaign-related" conversation topics. Sessions, in pushing back against the larger "collusion" narrative, may have meant that his talks with the ambassador did not pertain to campaign strategy -- insights into the domestic political horserace, tactics against Trump's opponent, etc. After all, it's on that terrain where collusion would have taken place. Based on the Post's account of what these intercepts allegedly show, the two men talked about Trump's foreign policy stances regarding Russia, and how US-Russo relations might realign under a hypothetical Trump presidency. It doesn't strike me as entirely unreasonable for Sessions to regard foreign policy conversations as separate from "campaign" conversations, just as it wouldn't be unreasonable for a Sessions critic to cite these newly-reported facts as evidence of mendacity. It's difficult to reach a definitive conclusion on this point without seeing the full content and context of the intercepted communications in question. For argument's sake, let's say you're willing to give Sessions the benefit of the doubt here. At the very least, this potential contradiction -- which comes on top of a previous, related contradiction -- demonstrates why Sessions' recusal was not only appropriate, but necessary.