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Trump considered replacing Sessions with Pruitt

President Donald Trump floated replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Scott Pruitt, even as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency faces a growing list of negative headlines.

Posted: Apr 6, 2018 6:32 PM
Updated: Apr 6, 2018 6:34 PM

President Donald Trump floated replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Scott Pruitt as recently as this week, even as the scandal-ridden head of the Environmental Protection Agency has faced a growing list of negative headlines, according to people close to the President.

"He was 100% still trying to protect Pruitt because Pruitt is his fill-in for Sessions," one source familiar with Trump's thinking told CNN.

Though the President has, at times, floated several people a day for multiple positions in his administration that are already occupied, the proposition reveals just how frustrated Trump remains with Sessions because of his decision to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation more than a year ago, while signaling how confident he has remained in Pruitt despite a dizzying number of ethics issues.

But Trump on Thursday said he continues to support Pruitt.

Asked by reporters as he boarded Air Force One if he has confidence in the embattled EPA official, Trump said: "I do."

Hours later, as he returned from an event in West Virginia, Trump said he wasn't considering replacing Sessions with Pruitt.

"No. No. Scott's doing a great job where he is," Trump said.

As with anything in the Trump White House, the situation remains fluid and circumstances continue to change from moment to moment. Press secretary Sarah Sanders told CNN Thursday the White House does "not have any plans for personnel changes at this time."

Trump's chief of staff John Kelly has not matched the President's confidence in Pruitt, according to a source familiar with his thinking. He has advocated for firing him before the headlines get worse. A source familiar with how things have unfolded said Kelly called Pruitt Tuesday morning to ask if there were other issues that could become public that he needed to know about. These feelings were further exacerbated after Pruitt did interviews with Fox News and Washington Examiner, which a senior administration official said only made matters worse.

White House aides warned officials at the EPA that having Pruitt sit for interviews this week could backfire and told them to rethink their plans, a person familiar with their conversation said.

The aides cautioned that the EPA that if Pruitt did poorly under questioning -- particularly televised questioning -- it would be the quickest way to lose Trump's confidence. In fact, the President was not impressed with Pruitt's performance.

But Pruitt has remained in Trump's good graces for the most part, though a source who is familiar with the matter said the President's confidence in him has faltered some in light of the ethics issues. However, Trump is hesitant to fire him because he likes entertaining the idea of replacing Sessions with Pruitt eventually and feels confident that he will continue to advance his agenda at the EPA in the meanwhile.

Justice Department under fire

The suggestion of replacing Sessions with a scandal-ridden Pruitt comes as Trump continues to rage against both the attorney general and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein.

Trump chatters often about ousting both, multiple sources familiar with his thinking told CNN. But his advisers have repeatedly tried to thwart this by convincing him that doing so would be damaging in the midterms, given how popular Sessions is with conservatives.

These same advisers have also argued that firing Rosenstein could delay the completion of special counsel Robert Mueller's obstruction of justice probe while creating unwanted headlines.

The President has especially focused his frustration on Rosenstein in recent weeks, often repeating his complaint that he is weak and not on his team, sources familiar with the President's grievances have said. Rosenstein resurfaced as a source of the President's wrath because of photo of him dining with Sessions and Solicitor General Noel Francisco at a popular Washington restaurant. Earlier that same day, Trump had criticized Sessions on Twitter.

Not backing down

Though Trump has laid off shaming Sessions publicly, sources who are familiar with their relationship caution that he hasn't privately backed off his criticism. These people often wait for Trump's hostility toward Sessions to resurface and several were stunned that he never tweeted about Sessions being on the cover of Time magazine.

The cover featured a shadowy photo of the former Alabama senator with the phrase "Nobody's above the law" plastered across his right shoulder in all capital letters. Trump's white-hot anger has been trained on Sessions for over a year now since the attorney general recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.

But Trump has repeatedly mused about firing many in his administration, so him discussing it doesn't necessarily mean he will.

For now, Sessions' allies feel that his job is safe, buoyed by the muted White House response after Sessions launched his first public rebuttal to Trump after the President criticized his "disgraceful" handling of Republican allegations of surveillance abuses at the department and FBI.

Overall, Trump has continued to vent about the Russia investigation, lamenting how "unfair" he believes the entire ordeal is.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 51079

Reported Deaths: 2756
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12019693
Lake5588248
Elkhart353959
Allen2939134
St. Joseph210669
Hamilton1691101
Cass16449
Hendricks1454100
Johnson1340118
Porter82638
Tippecanoe7709
Vanderburgh7276
Clark69544
Madison67464
LaPorte61628
Howard59858
Bartholomew59745
Kosciusko5754
Marshall5449
Noble51328
LaGrange4849
Boone48244
Jackson4783
Delaware47152
Hancock46736
Shelby45425
Floyd40644
Morgan34231
Monroe34028
Grant31826
Dubois3046
Henry30018
Montgomery29720
Clinton2903
White27410
Dearborn25823
Decatur25632
Lawrence25225
Vigo2528
Warrick25029
Harrison21722
Greene19432
Miami1932
Jennings17912
Putnam1738
DeKalb1694
Scott1649
Wayne1546
Daviess15017
Perry14710
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1352
Ripley1307
Franklin1278
Gibson1202
Wabash1162
Carroll1142
Fayette1067
Whitley1066
Starke1043
Newton10010
Huntington942
Jefferson862
Wells821
Randolph794
Fulton731
Knox710
Jay700
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Rush613
Posey570
Spencer541
Owen521
Benton510
Sullivan501
Adams491
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Switzerland320
Tipton321
Parke270
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 64214

Reported Deaths: 3036
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11724445
Cuyahoga8979393
Hamilton6781207
Lucas2952305
Marion274539
Montgomery244035
Summit2327209
Pickaway222241
Mahoning1928239
Butler182147
Columbiana137860
Stark1214114
Lorain112069
Trumbull104578
Warren97725
Clark80010
Delaware69815
Fairfield66717
Tuscarawas60410
Lake58923
Medina58232
Belmont56922
Licking56812
Miami50631
Portage49259
Wood48851
Clermont4737
Ashtabula44744
Geauga42543
Wayne37253
Richland3715
Allen35641
Greene3439
Mercer29910
Erie27122
Holmes2595
Darke25626
Huron2402
Madison2169
Ottawa17324
Sandusky16015
Washington14620
Ross1443
Coshocton1423
Athens1391
Crawford1385
Putnam13715
Hardin12312
Morrow1201
Auglaize1094
Jefferson1092
Muskingum1001
Union931
Preble901
Monroe8917
Hancock861
Lawrence830
Guernsey823
Clinton811
Hocking809
Williams762
Shelby744
Logan711
Ashland672
Carroll673
Fulton670
Scioto670
Wyandot635
Brown611
Fayette550
Defiance533
Knox531
Champaign511
Highland501
Van Wert471
Perry441
Seneca412
Henry330
Paulding300
Jackson280
Pike280
Adams261
Vinton232
Gallia201
Noble140
Harrison131
Meigs130
Morgan110
Unassigned00
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