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Sessions Fired, Acosta Stripped: Odds on Next AG and WH Press Corps

Don Aguero

by Don Aguero in Politics News

Updated Feb 7, 2019 · 1:39 PM PST

Sessions during happier times, back before the Russia investigation.
Sessions during happier times, back before the Russia investigation. Photo by Gage Skidmore (Flickr) [CC License].
  • Trump has become even more erratic after the midterm losses.
  • CNN reporter Jim Acosta has been stripped of his press credentials and AG Jeff Sessions has been fired.
  • What is Trump planning and will he face any consequences?

The midterms are over but the chaos continues. Donald Trump is fuming after the Republicans lost control of the House, leaving the Democrats with the power to oversee an investigation into the President and possibly even demand his tax returns.

In preparation for the ensuing onslaught, Trump has stripped CNN reporter Jim Acosta of his press credentials and fired — or, in the words of the White House, “demanded the resignation of” — Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump’s motivations are clear. He wants to remove Sessions so he can appoint a loyal puppet to the position. He’s found the most loyal of acting AGs in Matthew Whitaker, who has been extremely vocal in criticizing the Mueller investigation.

As for Acosta, he has been a constant thorn in Trump’s side when it comes to the President’s dealings with the White House press. Below, we set the odds on the next Attorney General, the future of the Mueller investigation, and

Who Will Be The Next Attorney General?

Who will replace Jeff Sessions as AG? Odds
Chris Christie 7/3
Lindsey Graham 17/3
Trey Gowdy 9/1
Kris Kobach 9/1
Matthew Whitaker 30/1

Chris Christie was happy to be Trump’s lapdog throughout the entire 2016 campaign, only to be passed over for every single position in Trump’s cabinet. Now may finally be his moment. The former New Jersey governor is the front-runner to take over from Sessions as Attorney General.

Lindsey Graham was once one of the few Republicans who dared to criticize Donald Trump. Now he’s one of Trump’s most devoted and loyal henchmen. That puts him high on the list of people to succeed Sessions, since Trump will first and foremost look for someone who will shield him from the Mueller investigation. Graham 2.0 seems ready to back Trump no matter what.

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Trey Gowdy did not seek reelection for his House seat and Kris Kobach was defeated during the Midterms. Both are now gainfully unemployed. Trump may consider both when making his pick. Kobach is as pro-Trump as it gets and Gowdy spearheaded the Benghazi investigation into Clinton.

Matthew Whitaker will serve as the acting AG until Trump picks Sessions’ replacement. It’s unlikely he’ll be nominated for the permanent position, but who knows.

Prop Over/Under
When will Jeff Sessions be replaced? January 3, 2019

Currently, the Republicans hold a slim two-vote majority in the Senate. That leaves very little room for error when it comes to confirming Trump’s cabinet picks. Especially for the Attorney General, who will oversee the Russia investigation, the vetting process will be extremely thorough and the Democrats will be extremely reluctant to lend a vote. Trump has been extremely transparent when it comes to his attitude towards Mueller, so it’ll be tough to paint his next AG pick as a neutral.

January 3rd is when the 116th Congress takes hold, and the Republicans will have a couple more Senate seats in change. Trump may want to wait until then before announcing Sessions’ replacement. Especially if Whitaker is happy to do Trump’s bidding, there won’t be a rush to confirm a new AG.

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Mueller Investigation Odds

Prop Odds
Over/Under on Date Mueller is Fired January 31, 2019
Odds the Russia investigation is allowed to reach its conclusion 1/4
“Before and after” odds Mueller is fired Odds
Odds before 2018 midterm election 17/3
Odds present day 3/1

It was an open secret that Trump would ramp up his attack on the Mueller investigation after the Midterms, but few people expected it to happen while the votes were still being counted. Trump has never shied from labeling the investigation a “witch hunt” and attacking Sessions for recusing himself; now he’s gone one step further.

Trump should know by now that firing Mueller will probably make things even worse for him. After all, the Mueller investigation only started because he fired James Comey. But Trump seems to mostly act on instinct and impulse, so we definitely can’t rule anything out.

To quote Matt Whitaker:

“I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced, it would recess appointment and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces his budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.”

Now that Whitaker is the acting AG, he can turn his prophesy into reality. The man has spoken at length about how he believes that the investigation is illegitimate. Let’s take him at his word here. He’ll allow the investigation to continue and reach a conclusion, but will do everything he can to limit Mueller’s reach.

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The Future of the White House Press Corps

Number of reporters banned from White House press, by outlet Over/Under
CNN 2.5
Washington Post 1.5
NY Times 1.5
NPR 1.5
Fox News 0.5
Sinclair Broadcast Group 0.5

CNN reporter Jim Acosta has had his press credentials stripped after he allegedly “placed hands” on a White House staffer. Press Sec. Sarah Sanders released footage of the incident, but her video was a doctored version of the original, sneakily edited to make Acosta appear more aggressive than he actually was.

Trump has labeled the new media the “enemy of the people” and will likely continue his war on two fronts, one against Mueller and another against the media. MSNBC, WashPo, and NYT all fall into Trump’s “fake news” category, and those institutions are just one critical story away from their reporters having their credentials pulled as well.

As for Fox News and Sinclair, there’s no chance of them running any story critical of the President. They’re basically state-run media at this point.

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