BYE BYE JEFF: Trump considering Christie, Bondi as new Attorney General, say sources

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is considering former campaign rival Chris Christie to replace outgoing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, say sources close to the Trump administration.

Also in the running, say sources, is Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

The revelations come in the wake of Wednesday’s announcement by Sessions that he will be leaving his role as Attorney General at the president’s request.

Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker as filling in as acting attorney general until a permanent replacement is announced.

The president gave no indication on Wednesday as to why he asked Sessions to resign his role and gave no time frame in which a permanent replacement would be announced.

According to an administration official, Christie attended a previously scheduled law enforcement discussion on prison reform efforts at the White House on Thursday morning. Christie then met privately with the Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner to further discuss prison reform issues.

“They’ve been working really closely on this for months,” the administration official said. “Despite the fact that people have suggested otherwise, the two have a really close and good working relationship, particularly as it relates to prison reform.”

Bondi, whose second and final term as the Sunshine State’s attorney general will end in January, declined through a spokesperson to say whether or not she is under consideration for the Justice Department’s lead role.

“As the attorney general has repeatedly said, she has not yet made a decision as to what she will do next,” Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said in a statement via email.
“The president will make that announcement when he feels the time is right.”

Neither Christie’s spokesperson nor the White House responded to multiple requests for comment.

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HE’S OUT! Trump forces out AG Jeff Sessions in fallout over midterms

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushed out Wednesday as the country’s chief law enforcement officer after enduring more than a year of blistering and personal attacks from President Donald Trump over his recusal from the Russia investigation.

Sessions told the president in a one-page letter that he was submitting his resignation “at your request.”

Trump announced in a tweet that he was naming Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker, a former United States attorney from Iowa, as acting attorney general. Whitaker has criticized special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between the president’s Republican campaign and Russia.

The resignation was the culmination of a toxic relationship that frayed just weeks into the attorney general’s tumultuous tenure, when he stepped aside from the Mueller investigation.

Trump blamed the decision for opening the door to the appointment of Mueller, who took over the Russia investigation and began examining whether Trump’s hectoring of Sessions was part of a broader effort to obstruct justice and stymie the probe.

Asked whether Whitaker would assume control over Mueller’s investigation, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores said Whitaker would be “in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice.” The Justice Department did not announce a departure for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller more than a year and a half ago and has closely overseen his work since then.

Whitaker once opined about a situation in which Trump could fire Sessions and then appoint an acting attorney general who could stifle the funding of Mueller’s probe.

“So I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt,” Whitaker said during an interview with CNN in July 2017.

Asked if that would be to dwindle the special counsel’s resources, Whitaker responded, “Right.”

In an op-ed for CNN, Whitaker wrote: “Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing.”

The relentless attacks on Sessions came even though the Alabama Republican was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump and despite the fact that his crime-fighting agenda and priorities — particularly his hawkish immigration enforcement policies — largely mirrored the president’s.

But the relationship was irreparably damaged in March 2017 when Sessions, acknowledging previously undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador and citing his work as a campaign aide, recused himself from the Russia investigation.

The decision infuriated Trump, who repeatedly lamented that he would have never selected Sessions if he had known the attorney general would recuse. The recusal left the investigation in the hands of Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel two months later after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey.

The rift lingered for the duration of Sessions’ tenure, and the attorney general, despite praising the president’s agenda and hewing to his priorities, never managed to return to Trump’s good graces.

The deteriorating relationship became a soap opera stalemate for the administration. Trump belittled Sessions but, perhaps following the advice of aides, held off on firing him. The attorney general, for his part, proved determined to remain in the position until dismissed. A logjam broke when Republican senators who had publicly backed Sessions began signaling a willingness to consider a new attorney general.

In attacks delivered on Twitter, in person and in interviews, Trump called Sessions weak and beleaguered, complained that he wasn’t more aggressively pursuing allegations of corruption against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and called it “disgraceful” that Sessions wasn’t more serious in scrutinizing the origins of the Russia investigation for possible law enforcement bias — even though the attorney general did ask the Justice Department’s inspector general to look into those claims.

The broadsides escalated in recent months, with Trump telling a television interviewer that Sessions “had never had control” of the Justice Department and snidely accusing him on Twitter of not protecting Republican interests by allowing two GOP congressmen to be indicted before the election.

Sessions endured most of the name-calling in silence, though he did issue two public statements defending the department, including one in which he said he would serve “with integrity and honor” for as long as he was in the job.

The recusal from the Russia investigation allowed him to pursue the conservative issues he had long championed as a senator, often in isolation among fellow Republicans.

He found satisfaction in being able to reverse Obama-era policies that he and other conservatives say flouted the will of Congress, including by encouraging prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges they could and by promoting more aggressive enforcement of federal marijuana law. He also announced media leak crackdowns, tougher policies against opioids and his Justice Department defended a since-abandoned administration policy that resulted in parents being separated from their children at the border.

His agenda unsettled liberals who said that Sessions’ focus on tough prosecutions marked a return to failed drug war tactics that unduly hurt minorities and the poor, and that his rollbacks of protections for gay and transgender people amount to discrimination.

Some Democrats also considered Sessions too eager to do Trump’s bidding and overly receptive to his grievances.

Sessions, for instance, directed senior prosecutors to examine potential corruption in a uranium field transaction that some Republicans have said may have implicated Clinton in wrongdoing and benefited donors of the Clinton Foundation. He also fired one of the president’s primary antagonists, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, just before he was to have retired — a move Trump hailed as a “great day for democracy.”

Despite it all, Sessions never found himself back in favor with the president.

Their relationship wasn’t always fractured. Sessions was a close campaign aide, attending national security meetings and introducing him at rallies in a red “Make America Great Again” hat.

But the problems started after he told senators during his confirmation hearing that he had never met with Russians during the campaign. The Justice Department, responding to a Washington Post report, soon acknowledged that Sessions had actually had two encounters during the campaign with the then-Russian ambassador. He recused himself the next day, saying it would be inappropriate to oversee an investigation into a campaign he was part of.

The announcement set off a frenzy inside the White House, with Trump directing his White House counsel to call Sessions beforehand and urge him not to step aside. Sessions rejected the entreaty. Mueller’s team, which has interviewed Sessions, has been investigating the president’s attacks on him and his demands to have a loyalist in charge of the Russia investigation.

Sessions had been protected for much of his tenure by the support of Senate Republicans, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who had said he would not schedule a confirmation hearing for another attorney general if Trump fired him.

But that support began to fade, with Grassley suggesting over the summer that he might have time for a hearing after all.

And Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, another Judiciary Committee member who once said there’d be “holy hell to pay” if Trump fired Sessions, called the relationship “dysfunctional” and said he thought the president had the right after the midterm to select a new attorney general.

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WAR ON CONSERVATIVES: Justice Department announces it will take on social media sites over alleged censoring of the right

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Justice Department on Wednesday announced Attorney General Jeff Sessions will investigate claims that social media giants such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are censoring pages based on their conservative views.

The announcement came after a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing was held in which top officials from Facebook and Twitter faced often intense grilling on whether or not they had ever targeted or “shadow banned” conservative pages for political gain, claims Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has repeatedly denied.

“The Attorney General has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms,” the statement said.

President Donald Trump has claimed that he, himself, has been the target of censorship and “fake news” by both the mainstream press and on social media and that he believes platforms including Facebook and Twitter often discriminate against conservatives based on their own left-leaning political bias.

“Maybe I did a better job because I’m good with the Twitter and I’m good at social media, but the truth is they were all on Hillary Clinton’s side, and if you look at what was going on with Facebook and with Google and all of it, they were very much on her side,” Trump said.

“What we’re concerned about is how Twitter has in some ways it looks like selectively, adversely affected conservatives,” Rep. Steve Scalise, (R)-La., said during Wednesday’s House hearing.

Scalise cited Rep. Marsha Blackburn, (R)-Tenn., who claimed her Senate campaign announcement video was taken down by Twitter as an example. In response, Twitter claimed that the removal of Blackburn’s campaign video was “a mistake” which was quickly corrected, and apologized for the “error”.

Throughout his testimony, Dorsey pushed back several times, denying claims that he nor anyone to his knowledge at Twitter had ever targeted conservatives to further a political agenda.

“I want to start by making something clear: we don’t consider political viewpoints, perspectives, or party affiliation in any of our policies or enforcement decisions. Period,” he said. “Impartiality is our guiding principle.”

The Justice Department did not set a date for the upcoming meeting and it has not yet been revealed how many attorneys general will attend.

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‘ZERO TOLERANCE’: Sessions unveils tough new policies for America’s southern border

Washington, D.C. — Attorney General Jeff Sessions is cracking down hard against illegal immigrants who attempt to cross the southern U.S. border.

Sessions announced Monday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will hereby enforce a “zero tolerance” policy for those who cross the southern border illegally and warned that children who are caught crossing the border may be separated from their family.

“If you cross the border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple,” Sessions said during a press conference in San Diego near the U.S.-Mexico border.

“If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you,” Sessions added. “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. And that child may be separated from you, as required by law.”

President Trump’s Department of Justice announced the new policy in a memo last month. In it, Sessions said prosecuting immigration violators will now become a DOJ priority.

“If you’re going to come to this country, come here legally. Don’t come here illegally,” Sessions said Monday.

“The American people have a right to expect the laws their representatives voted for are going to be carried out,” he added. “Failure to enforce our duly enacted laws would be an affront to the American people.”

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‘ZERO TOLERANCE’: Trump announces tough new policy on illegal border crossings

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump administration on Friday issued a harsh new warning to those considering crossing into America’s borders illegally.

Going forward, says Attorney General Jeff Sessions, border patrol agents will institute a “zero tolerance” policy toward illegals caught crossing America’s border.

“The situation at our Southwest Border is unacceptable,” Sessions said in a statement announcing the policy. “Congress has failed to pass effective legislation that serves the national interest — that closes dangerous loopholes and fully funds a wall along our southern border. ”

“As a result, a crisis has erupted at our Southwest Border that necessitates an escalated effort to prosecute those who choose to illegally cross our border,” Sessions added.

The move is just the latest in a series of mandates put forth by the president, who campaigned heavily on his promise to secure America’s borders and follows a series of tweets earlier in the week in which Trump slammed the Obama-era “catch and release” program.

“We don’t have laws, we have catch-and-release,” the president tweeted on Tuesday. “You catch and then you immediately release and people come back years later for a court case, except they virtually never come back.”

“Our Border Laws are very weak while those of Mexico & Canada are very strong,” he added Wednesday. “Congress must change these Obama era, and other, laws NOW!”

While speaking at a rally in West Virginia on Thursday to tout the benefits of Republican tax cuts, the president said the negative impact illegal immigrants have on voting must not be discounted.

“In many places, like California, the same person votes many times. You probably heard about that,” Trump said. “They always like to say, ‘Oh, that’s a conspiracy theory.’ Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people. And it’s very hard because the state guards their records. They don’t want us to see them.”

During Friday’s announcement, Sessions warned those who may be contemplating entering America illegally to reconsider, adding that illegal entry into the U.S. will not be rewarded and will be instead “met with the full prosecutorial powers of the Department of Justice.”

“To the Department’s prosecutors, I urge you: promoting and enforcing the rule of law is vital to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens,” he said.

Also, in a press release issued Thursday, the Pentagon announced the establishment of a new “border security support cell” which will be used to house those caught illegally crossing the border.

“We will not allow illegal immigration levels to become the norm,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement. “More than 1,000 people a day, 300,000 a year violating our sovereignty as a nation will never be acceptable to this president.”

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WAR ON SCHAAF: Trump takes on Oakland mayor in sanctuary city showdown

OAKLAND, CA — President Donald Trump stepped up his efforts Thursday to take down Oakland, California Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Schaaf, who last month warned thousands of illegal immigrants in her city of a pending ICE raid, has openly defied federal orders to comply with immigration officials.

“Oakland police officers are prohibited from participating in ICE activities,” Schaaf stated in a press release issued on February 24, adding that she wanted city residents “to prepare, not panic.”

Despite facing immense backlash, Schaff doubled down on her stance Tuesday, saying Oakland would “continue to inform all residents about their constitutional rights.”

In response, the president said Thursday its time to make an example of public officials who “harbor dangerous criminals” by standing in the way of arrests and deportations and called Schaaf’s actions “a disgrace”.

Federal officials were prepared to take nearly 1,000 illegal immigrants into custody last month, Trump said during Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, but Schaaf’s heads-up allowed all but 150 to escape.

“Many of them, they say 85 percent of them, were criminals and had criminal records,’ the president said. “This was long in the planning, and she said, “Get out of here.” And she’s telling that to criminals. And it’s certainly something that we’re looking at, with respect to her individually.”

Trump also said the U.S. government may cut off funding to states who refuse to comply with federal immigration enforcement.

“I do think we should have legislation where we put an extra line in the money that we give them. You want the money? You can’t have the sanctuary cities,” said Trump. “That way we avoid the court battles all the time – which we probably will win, but who needs it?”

The president’s comments come just one day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions filed suit against the state of California over its sanctuary city policies.

In announcing the Justice Department’s lawsuit against California on Wednesday, Sessions also targeted Schaaf.

“Her actions support those who flout the law and boldly validate illegality,” Sessions said of the Oakland mayor. “There’s no other way to interpret those remarks.”

“Here’s my message to Mayor Schaaf,” Sessions continued. “How dare you? How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement officers to promote your radical open borders agenda?”

“Immigration law is the province of the federal government. It’s in the Constitution,” Sessions told the California Peace Officers Association.

“I don’t want to be in this position of having to challenge these laws,” he added. “It wasn’t something I chose to do, but I can’t sit by idly while the lawful authorities of federal officers are being blocked by legislative actions and politicians.”

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SLAMMING SESSIONS: Trump calls out Attorney General for using ‘Obama guy’ to probe ‘massive FISA abuse’

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Wednesday criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for using an “Obama guy” to investigate alleged FISA abuses.

The president’s rage was triggered by Tuesday’s announcement that the Justice Department’s inspector general has been tapped to investigate the allegations, despite the release of memos which reveal FISA warrants to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser that were unlawfully obtained by the DOJ and FBI.

“Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse,” Trump tweeted (https://tinyurl.com/ya22pl2p). “Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

Sessions confirmed Tuesday, in response to a question from Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, that the accusations of wrongdoing would be investigated at the IG level.

“The inspector general will take that as one of the matters he’ll deal with,” he said referring to DOJ IG Michael Horowitz.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Sessions defended himself and his department.

“We have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this Department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary,” the statement reads. “As long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.”

This isn’t the first time the president has publicly criticized Sessions or his team.

He first lashed out a Sessions last year, when the attorney general recused himself from any role in the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In an interview with Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” earlier this month (https://tinyurl.com/yb7k7s3b), Sessions announced there would be an investigation into how the FBI used the dossier to secure the surveillance.

“That will be investigated and looked at, and we are not going to participate at the Department of Justice in providing anything less than the proper disclosure to the court before they issue a FISA warrant.”

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