Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that if President Trump replaces Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his new nominee would have to promise the Senate that he would allow special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to complete his investigation.
Graham raised eyebrows last week when he seemed to give Trump his blessing to fire Sessions, telling reporters that the president was “entitled to an attorney general he has faith in.”
Trump has repeatedly derided Sessions publicly for recusing himself from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, a probe that Trump calls a “witch hunt.” That has prompted widespread speculation that Trump would name a replacement who would shut down the probe, now being led by Mueller.
During an appearance Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show, Graham stood by his assessment that Trump should have an attorney general he trusts but stressed an important caveat.
“You have to replace him with somebody who is highly qualified and will commit to the Senate to allow Mueller to do his job,” Graham said. “Nobody is going to take Jeff’s place that doesn’t commit to the Senate and the country as a whole that Mueller will be allowed to finish his job without political interference.”
Graham said he understands Trump’s frustration with Mueller’s investigation, but added: “Here’s what I believe about Mueller: He’s a fine man. He’s not on a witch hunt. Let him do his job.”
Mueller is investigating whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 election and whether Trump has obstructed the probe.
Graham said he has seen “no evidence of collusion to this point.”
“At the end of the day, if there is collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, that will be it for me,” Graham said. “Anything else will be just noise.”
Tensions between Trump and Sessions flared last week after Trump said in an interview with Fox News that Sessions “never took control of the Justice Department.” Sessions pushed back hours after Trump spoke, saying the Justice Department would not be “improperly influenced by political considerations” under his leadership.
Several Republican senators have counseled Trump against replacing Sessions, cautioning that it would be difficult to win Senate confirmation for a replacement while the Mueller investigation is ongoing.
“This relationship is beyond repair, I think,” Graham said Tuesday.
Graham said the rift between Trump and Sessions is “much deeper” than their differences over the Mueller investigation but would not elaborate.
“It’s a pretty deep breach,” Graham said.
He added that Sessions is “not the only man in the country that can be attorney general.”
“This is a dysfunctional relationship,” Graham said. “We need a better one.”