Democrats are worried President Donald Trump wants to remove the nation's top lawyer, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, during the August recess to make way for someone who would be willing to fire the special prosecutor leading the charge into the 2016 election hacking investigation without first being confirmed by the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said Monday on the Senate floor that "if such a scenario were to pass, we would have a constitutional crisis on our hands."
In order to remove the possibility of Trump making a recess appointment while the Senate is out of session during the August state-work period, Schumer said he expects the Senate will hold pro forma sessions throughout the upcoming recess to prevent a recess appointment from happening.
Schumer said he and his colleagues will be ready to block a potential recess appointment by utilizing the procedural tool that has already been used this year during Trump's presidency, most recently during the Fourth of July holiday. Pro forma sessions were also notably used during Barack Obama's presidency to prevent him from making recess appointments.
The pro forma sessions are usually held every three days and while any senator present can open and preside over a pro forma session, the attendance of other senators isn't required. Most pro forma sessions happen before a nearly empty chamber.
If the Senate convenes every three days for a few minutes or seconds, it is not technically in recess, therefore Trump wouldn’t be able to push through a recess appointment to replace Sessions.
A senator will have to gavel in and gavel out for a pro forma session to work. The leader’s office doesn’t usually announce the lineup ahead of time, but the duty usually falls to the senator who happens to be in town that day or in the states closest in proximity to the nation's capital including Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
Democrats and Republican senators came out in droves to defend Sessions last week following Trump's attack on the former Alabama senator and warned Trump from making any moves to replace him.
In a series of tweets aimed at Sessions last week, Trump called the attorney general “beleaguered” and said he had a “very weak” position on “Hillary Clinton crimes.”
But on Monday, the White House walked back the speculation that Trump was thinking of firing him.
“There is no announcement on that and the president has 100 percent confidence in his Cabinet,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said during an on-camera briefing.