Months ago the question loomed as to whether President Donald Trump would fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions — and what that could mean to the special counsel's probe of Russian election meddling.
But on the heels of criminal convictions of the president's ex-campaign chairman, Sessions is still standing and Trump berates him in public all the more.
Now the question becomes why the president hasn't just fired him.
One answer may be that Trump fears dumping Sessions more than he minds looking too weak to decide who works in his administration.
For one thing, Sessions' former colleagues in the Senate, who call their own shots from Capitol Hill, signaled to the White House where they stand on an AG switch.
"We don't have time, nor is there a likely candidate, who could get confirmed, in my view, under these current circumstances," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters last month.
Perhaps Trump also heeded warnings that firing Sessions after berating him for recusing himself from the Russia probe could represent an attempt to obstruct the investigation he's been railing against.
But even as the president appears boxed in — at least through the midterm elections in November — he utters his grievances with the same kind of distancing remarks he has applied to others he eventually got around to terminating.
“I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,” Trump told Hill.TV in an Oval Office interview Tuesday. The phrasing is obtuse. Referring to the Russia collusion probe, Trump said: "I’m not happy at the border, I’m not happy with numerous things, not just this."
“I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it,” he said.
“And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers," Trump said. "Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.”
"He gets in and probably because of the experience that he had going through the nominating, when somebody asked him the first question about Hillary Clinton or something he said ‘I recuse myself, I recuse myself.’"
This disjointed chronology leaves out Sessions' role in the campaign and his two meetings with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that he hadn't at first disclosed to the Senate during his confirmation hearing.
The president complains that he is unhappy. For some reason, Sessions apparently hasn't offered his resignation. This situation would be unusual in any small business, let alone the White House. What to make of it?
Recall that Trump's first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, lasted in the job for eight months after it was widely reported that the former Exxon-Mobil CEO called Trump a "moron."
It is a scenario unique to this administration.
The memory of Trump decidedly declaring "You're fired" now comes off as nothing more than televised fiction from long ago.