Attorney general Jeff Sessions has told political allies in Alabama that he is not considering running for his old Senate seat as a write-in candidate in next month’s special election. That’s according to a spokeswoman for Sessions at the Department of Justice, Sarah Isgur Flores, who also tells me that Sessions is telling Alabama Republicans he is not considering being appointed to the seat if Roy Moore wins and is either not seated by or is expelled from the Senate.
The New York Times reported Monday that two White House officials independently discussed the idea of Alabama governor Kay Ivey blocking Moore so that she could “immediately appoint” Sessions to the vacant seat. The White House has not said whether it has discussed this with Sessions. “As a policy we don’t discuss White House communications,” Flores said.
Sessions resigned from the Senate in January after being confirmed as attorney general. Ivey’s predecessor, Governor Robert Bentley, appointed Luther Strange to the Sessions seat, but Strange lost the Republican primary for the special election to Moore.
Last week, Moore was accused by four different women of having pursued a sexual relationship when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers. One woman told the Washington Post that he had touched her sexually when she was 14. A fifth accuser emerged on Monday afternoon, claiming in a news conference that, around the same time as the other alleged incidents, Moore groped her when she was 16.
There has been some discussion of Strange, Sessions, or some other Alabama Republican running as a write-in candidate for the December 12 election, which could possibly split the GOP vote and give the seat to Democrat Doug Jones. Strange has not ruled out running as a write-in.
More and more Republicans in Washington (though conspicuously not President Trump) have called on Moore to drop out of the race. Among them is Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who on Monday said he believed Moore’s accusers.
Cory Gardner, the Colorado senator and chairman of the Republicans’ senatorial campaign committee, released a statement Monday afternoon saying that Moore is “unfit to serve” in the Senate and should step aside. Gardner added that if Moore does win the election, the Senate should expel him immediately. My colleague John McCormack recently outlined how the Senate could do something like that, starting with the Senate’s ethics committee.
Speaking of Sessions—The Washington Post reports that Sessions has told Justice Department prosecutors to “explore” appointing a second special counsel—to investigate several issues involving Hillary Clinton. The news of a letter from an assistant attorney general to a House committee chairman suggested the AG could be considering naming the special counsel:
The revelation came in a response from the Justice Department to an inquiry from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.), who in July and again in September called for Sessions to appoint a second special counsel to investigate concerns he had related to the 2016 election and its aftermath.
The list of matters he wanted probed was wide ranging, but included the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, various dealings of the Clinton Foundation and several matters connected to the purchase of the Canadian mining company Uranium One by Russia’s nuclear energy agency. Goodlatte took particular aim at former FBI director James B. Comey, asking for a second special counsel to evaluate the leaks he directed about his conversations with President Trump, among other things.
Sessions plans to testify on Tuesday in front of the House Judiciary committee.
According to the White House, the last in-person meeting between Sessions and President Trump was on October 31, in an Oval Office meeting with Vice President Mike Pence.
Mueller Watch—From the Atlantic: “The Secret Correspondence Between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks”
President Trump spent the last day of his Asia trip in the Philippines, swapping public pleasantries with President Rodrigo Duterte. But the governments disagree on what the two leaders discussed behind closed doors, especially where the Filipino strongman’s human rights record is concerned.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the Trump and Duterte “briefly” discussed human rights during the meeting.
“The conversation focused on ISIS, illegal drugs, and trade. Human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs,” Sanders said.
But Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque disagreed, telling CNN that “human rights did not arise” during the meeting.
Roque added that when Duterte brought up their country’s “drug menace,” Trump “appeared sympathetic and did not have any official position on the matter but was merely nodding his head.”
Since he took office last year, Duterte has gone to violent extremes to try to stamp out drug usage in the Philippines, describing addicts as subhuman and pledging to kill every dealer and user in the country.
“Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there’s three million drug addicts,” Duterte said last September. “I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
Human rights groups estimate resulting police actions have killed between 7,000 and 13,000 people.
Back in April, Trump praised Duterte on a call for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
“Many countries have the problem, we have the problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump said.
Trump will arrive back in Washington late Tuesday night.
Tax Reform Watch—In the meantime, the White House continues to push the Republican tax plan, with Ivanka Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin traveling to New Jersey Monday to present it as a boon to the middle class.
“We in Treasury have literally run hundreds and hundreds of examples to make sure people get real tax cuts,” Mnuchin said. “I have lived in the high-tax states of the world, New York and California, so I can understand life in New Jersey.”
The pair, who made the appearance alongside outgoing governor Chris Christie in solidly red Bayville, New Jersey, also projected optimism about the package’s prospects, saying that the House and Senate versions were “very, very close.”
“There are some specific differences, but generally the two bills are very close and, more important, the objectives are the same, which is middle income tax cuts and making business competitive,” Mnuchin said.
The JVL Interview—My colleague Jonathan V. Last has another terrific interview, this time with tennis star and sports broadcaster Mary Carillo. It’s a lively and delightful conversation. Here’s a taste:
Monica is still the most impressive match player I’ve ever seen. Every shot she struck was intense, meaningful, full of effort and power. Serena Williams says that Seles was her idol growing up and I believe her, but while Serena can hit with great authority and abandon, she can also make a helluva lot of errors, so if it’s one set of tennis, I choose Monica.
I used to call matches of hers and at the end of the first set she’d have struck 19 winners and made 1 error. She dominated the sport without fear until she was stabbed in the back . . . and when she finally came back on tour, fear had become a dominant player in her life. But at her best, boy . . .
Must-Read of the Day—At the Daily Beast, Elaina Plott asks a good question: What is Omarosa doing at the White House?
Song of the Day—“Outlaw Blues/Jack the Ripper” by the White Stripes
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard