Friday, November 9, 2018

Report: Chris Christie, Pam Bondi among top candidates to replace Jeff Sessions

Two people are leading the race to permanently replace Jeff Sessions after the former attorney general’s shocking ouster one day after the midterm elections.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and retiring Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi are rumored to be top candidates to replace the out-going top attorney, CNN reported.

Sessions’ ouster came after months of public rebukes from his boss, and he resigned Wednesday at the request of Trump, who tapped Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, to serve as a temporary replacement. Whitaker can serve in the role for 210 days before a permanent replacement is needed.

Christie, Bondi top contenders

Christie is a former prosecutor, presidential candidate and long-time friend of Trump, who he endorsed after losing to him in the primary. He oversaw Trump’s transition process. If chosen, Christie would likely face pressure to recuse himself from the Russian investigation, as Sessions did upon assuming office, over his involvement with the Trump campaign.

The former governor was at the White House Thursday to discuss prison reform with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Christie prosecuted Kushner’s father Charles for tax evasion and other crimes while serving as a U.S. attorney in New Jersey years ago, but the two apparently have a good relationship now, a White House official told CNN.

Christie has praised Robert Mueller in the past, calling him an “honest … hard-working guy” and criticizing Trump’s angry broad-sides against Mueller and his “witch hunt” investigation. Christie and Bondi were both considered for the top attorney position at one time, CNN said.

Bondi is also a long-time friend of the president but could face a stumbling block over an $25,000 campaign contribution she received from Trump through the Trump foundation when she was running for re-election in 2014, a time when her office was asked to look into alleged fraud at Trump University. Bondi is term-limited and is finishing up her second and final term as attorney general of the Sunshine State. She is the first female attorney general of the state and has opposed Obama’s Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrival (DACA) and Obamacare.

“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 told CNN.

Trump loyalists, Kavanaugh colleague considered

Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump and entered the Trump administration as one of his loudest cheerleaders. The former Alabama senator pursued Trump’s hard-line immigration agenda with furious energy, but he rankled the president after giving up control of the Russia probe.

Sessions’ ouster was followed swiftly by warnings, condemnations, and protests to “protect Mueller” in cities across the country as liberals fretted that Trump would choose a new attorney general who will curtail Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian collusion. Whitaker’s past critical statements of the Mueller investigation led to exaggerated fears of a coup of the Justice Department by Trump to obstruct the Russia investigation.

While such fears are overblown, it’s likely that Trump is looking for a loyalist to fill the role. Some other candidates include Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who lost the state’s governor race, and Rudy Giuliani, who is Trump’s lawyer.

Another candidate being mentioned is Janice Rogers Brown, a retired federal appeals court judge who served on the California Supreme Court. Brown earned a reputation for her provocative conservative opinions during her time on the appeals court in Washington, D.C, to which she was appointed by former president George W. Bush. She is a former colleague of another Bush appointee, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“There are many people in contention for that position just because there are many qualified people who would like to do it,” Kellyanne Conway said.

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