President Trump has at least five candidates as his new attorney general on the assumption that Jeff Sessions will leave his post this year, the Wall Street Journal reports. The list includes Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Transportation Department general counsel Steven Bradbury, former Attorney General Bill Barr, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Janice Rogers Brown, a retired federal appeals court judge in Washington, D.C. The president has spoken frequently about his desire to replace Sessions and his regret over installing the former Alabama senator as Attorney General. Sessions isn’t planning to leave voluntarily but has said privately that he anticipates being asked to resign.
Replacing Sessions would present legal and political quandaries for the president. Trump must find a successor who could win Senate confirmation, a job senators say is harder given the president’s public suggestions that he wants a political ally as attorney general. Many GOP senators are advocating for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to succeed Sessions, especially after Graham’s vocal defense of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said, “I can’t think of anybody else right now who could get confirmed.” Graham has denied interest in the job. Another purported candidate, Sessions chief of staff Matthew Whitaker, has allies in the White House but also detractors. As a commentator on CNN, Whitaker expressed skepticism about the special counsel probe and urged limits on its scope, a position likely to raise objections from Democrats and some Republicans. Of the five people under discussion at the White House, Azar, Bradbury and Sullivan are serving in Senate-confirmed positions. They would have to be reconfirmed to serve as attorney general, but may have an advantage from having already won Senate approval.