Coons: Democrats Will Try to Block Recess Appointment If Sessions Is Fired

By Susan Jones | July 26, 2017 | 9:20am EDT
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) say Senate Democrats will try to block President Trump from making a recess appointment, if Trump fires his attorney general. (Screen grab from MSNBC's "Morning Joe.")

( - Democrats will try to prevent President Trump from making a recess appointment to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, if and when Sessions is fired.

“We’re going to try and block a recess appointment,” Coons told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday morning.

He noted that the president can appoint someone without a confirmation hearing or a Senate vote, but only during a full recess, which is scheduled to happen next month. He indicated that Democrats will take their cue from Republicans, who refused to recess in 2016, convening every three days in "pro forma sessions," to prevent then-President Obama from appointing Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

(President Obama ignored the Senate’s pro forma sessions in 2012, making several recess appointments, but the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled unanimously that “the President lacked the authority to make those appointments.”)

Coons told MSNBC on Wednesday that a confirmation hearing for any potential Sessions successor “would raise tough questions about this ongoing Russia investigation, about whether the next attorney general would agree to fire (Special Counsel) Bob Mueller, because I think that’s what’s really President Trump’s objective here, is to put in place an attorney general who will fire Bob Mueller.”

Coons said as a matter of law, Trump cannot fire Mueller directly. In this case, he said, the job would fall to the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, or to one of Rosenstein’s deputies, if Rosenstein refused to fire Mueller. (Rosenstein hired Mueller in the first place, one day after Mueller interviewed with Trump for the job of FBI director.)

Coons also said he would anticipate “widespread opposition to an abrupt firing of attorney general Jeff Sessions:

Attorneys general pledge their loyalty to the United States Constitution, not to an individual president, and President Trump doesn’t seem to understand that. His repeated harassment of Jeff Sessions, based on his recusal, suggests he just doesn’t understand that.

So I think we would see strong and bipartisan resistance to the firing of Jeff Sessions, and I think the president would have great difficulty getting a successor attorney general confirmed in the Senate without confirmation hearings, and those confirmation hearings would focus on the importance of the independence of the attorney general, which is exactly the topic the president seems to want to avoid.

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