Attorney General Jeff Sessions is facing increasing public pressure from Republicans on Capitol Hill, many of whom disagree with him on an increasingly wide array of issues — including his marijuana policy, his handling of the special counsel investigation, to his perceived inability to stop leaks from the Justice Department and FBI.
Republicans loyal to President Donald Trump have long echoed Trump's frustration with both the pace and the extent of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, as well as alleged partisan bias within Mueller's team.
Sessions has recused himself from any participation in any investigations into the Trump campaign's dealings with Russia, but some Republicans on Capitol Hill have shared Trump's frustration that this decision should have been announced before Trump considered him for the post, and are frustrated that more isn't being done to rein in perceived overreach by Mueller under the watch of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Other issues, however, have come to the forefront in recent days. Harsh blowback against Sessions' decision to rescind an Obama-era policy directing the Justice Department not to enforce a federal prohibition on marijuana on states where marijuana is legal. Many Republicans in Congress have groused that Sessions' decision puts them in an awkward position politically: only 14 percent of Americans believe that marijuana should always be illegal and 49 percent of the American public supports legalized recreational marijuana.
Public attitudes toward marijuana have been trending toward legalization for years, and it is widely expected that within the next five or 10 years, support for legalized recreational marijuana will top 60 percent nationwide. However, many elected Republicans hail from areas of the country where opposition to legalization remains strongest.
Perversely, the Obama-era policy allowed Republicans to avoid choosing between alienating middle-of-the-road voters who are clearly increasingly accepting of legalized marijuana and alienating the voting bases of red-state representatives.
Resentment over Sessions' decision to effectively force what will be perceived as a national choice on marijuana policy spilled over into the public eye earlier this week when Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) blasted Sessions for allegedly "going back on his word" on marijuana policy and promising to place a hold on all DOJ nominees until Sessions reinstates the Obama-era policy.
Sessions is also facing increasing pressure from the conservative wing of the Republican Party in the House. Earlier this week, GOP Reps. Mark Meadows (N.C.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) wrote an op-ed for the Washington Examiner that blistered Sessions for his inability to stop leaks from the FBI and DOJ, and actually called for Sessions to resign from his post:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation, but it would appear he has no control at all of the premier law enforcement agency in the world. It is time for Sessions to start managing in a spirit of transparency to bring all of this improper behavior to light and stop further violations. If Sessions can't address this issue immediately, then we have one final question needing an answer: When is it time for a new attorney general?
Sadly, it seems the answer is now.
Of course, Sessions will remain in his job as long as Trump wishes for him to remain there. However, it seems likely that the only thing preventing Trump from making a change would be the perceived political blowback that would be expected to come from firing another prominent administration official after just a year in office. After all, no one has expressed clearer public disappointment at Sessions' handling of the Russia investigation — including his decision to recuse himself — than Trump himself.
But if the calls for Sessions' ouster grow loud enough from both sides of the aisle, it may will give Trump the political cover he needs to make a change that many believe he desperately wants to make.