I have often restrained my criticism of President Trump, saying little or nothing about his past trespasses because I believe he already receives more than enough at the hands of our mainstream media. However, there are some things that cannot go answered and President Trump’s treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions is one.
From day one, Sessions has been a staunch supporter of President Trump, being the first US Senator to publicly endorse Trump early in his campaign. And since then, Sessions has appeared on the campaign trail for Trump and introduced him at events. Thus it was no surprise when Trump nominated Sessions for the position of Attorney General. Since then however, Trump and Sessions’ relationship has begun to sour as the storm of the Russian investigation made landfall.
Because Trump’s chief medium for attacking Sessions has been Twitter, I thought it would be appropriate to show how Trump historically has treated Sessions on Twitter. When doing a search of Trump’s tweets, you’ll find the first tweet specifically mentioning Sessions was made by Trump on March 3, 2016 where he said that then-Senator Sessions would be serving as the chairman of his (Trump’s) campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee. And on November 22, 2016, Trump made another tweet where he posted an article by The National Review that called Jeff Sessions a “fitting choice for Attorney General.”
This article is actually very interesting because in an endorsement of Trump’s appointment, is says that Sessions is a “sensible pick that promises to restore some integrity to a Justice Department tarnished by eight years of Obama-administration lawlessness.” The article praises Sessions for his dedication to “law and order” and ends with a very pivotal quote that I included in full below.
“….Jeff Sessions has an opportunity to restore the integrity of a department that has deservedly fallen into disrepute, and a foundational American idea: that no one is above the law. With due diligence, he might succeed in leading a Justice Department that actually dispenses a bit of justice.” The National Review (11/18/2016)
Ironically, it is exactly because of this that Sessions now finds himself in President Trump’s sights. Trump’s next tweets about Sessions were mostly defending him from the scandal that erupted when it was discovered that Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and may have discussed campaign information. Trump defended him, calling him “honest” and then tweeted excuses for the meaning, trying to pin the blame on President Obama. But the drastic u-turn for President Trump began on on July 19 when he attacked Sessions in an interview with The New York Times.
In his interview, Trump needled Sessions for his decision to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation after his meeting with the Russian ambassador was made public. Calling it “very unfair to the President”, Trump told The New York Times that if he had known Sessions would recuse himself, he would’ve never hired him. This however raises some interesting questions because Sessions’ decision to recuse himself was made in April of this year and one must ask why Trump waited almost three months before voicing his misgivings about Sessions’ decision. Furthermore, sources close to Sessions and Trump both revealed that Sessions had actually offered to resign in May but President Trump refused to accept his resignation. So what changed? The only variable I see is the increased heat coming from the Russia investigations.
Trump has now turned to his medium of choice, Twitter, to attack Jeff Sessions by insinuating that he perhaps is not the honest upstanding Attorney General that Trump originally portrayed him as. Trump first called him “beleaguered” and suggested he wasn’t doing his due diligence by not having investigated Hillary Clinton in a tweet sent out on July 24. And the next day, Trump made similar attacks, accusing him of taking a “weak” position on investigating Hillary Clinton and the recent intelligence leaks. Finally in a tweet made yesterday, Trump wanted to know why acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe hasn’t been fired yet and seemed to make the ridiculous inference that Sessions was protecting him or not doing his job.
Just like his interview, these accusations are also full of holes and question marks. First, Trump wanted to know why Sessions hadn’t investigated Hillary Clinton which proves he really didn’t pay attention to Sessions’ Senate confirmation hearing where he promised to recuse himself from any investigation into Hillary Clinton, citing his own campaign rhetoric against her. And furthermore, Trump has just as much authority to fire McCabe and initiate investigations into Hillary Clinton as Sessions does so if Trump really wanted these two things done, why hasn’t he done them himself?
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders excused Trump’s behavior, noting he was “disappointed with Sessions” but both her and Trump have remained tight-lipped about Session’ future in the Trump Administration, even as Sessions himself has stated he has no intention of resigning. But while Trump’s comments about Sessions have sparked the usual backlash from Trump-critics like Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator John McCain, other more conservative Senators and public figures have also criticized Trump for his treatment of Sessions.
In fact, at least a dozen Republican senators have come out strongly against President Trump making any action to fire or force Sessions to resign and Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, warned that there was no way the Senate would consider another nominee for the Attorney General slot if Trump forced Sessions out.
I believe Sessions did the right thing in recusing himself from the Russia investigation, even if his meeting with the Russian ambassador was really nothing significant. Often times, these investigations rely on public trust just as much as they do on impartial investigators and even if Sessions did an impartial investigation of President Trump, it would still be tainted by how people viewed him. Furthermore, Sessions’ decision to remove himself showed a level of honesty uncommon in the Washington swamp. Remember how similar calls came for Loretta Lynch (Obama’s Attorney General) to recuse herself from investigating Hillary Clinton after she had that infamous meeting with Bill Clinton on the tarmac of a Phoenix airport? She never did and according to then-FBI Dirctor Comey, even tried pressuring him on the way he conducted the investigation.
Sessions was doing the exact thing that Trump appointed him to do: restoring Americans’ faith in the integrity of the Justice Department and as The National Review so eloquently put it, restoring the foundation to our justice system that “no one is above the law”, not even our President. Trump has a right to question and order his Attorney General to do what he wants as he is Sessions’ boss, but attacking him in public on Twitter while refusing to speak to him one-on-one isn’t only not presidential, it’s completely inappropriate for any setting. There’s a time and place for when challenging your subordinates in the public arena is necessary, but that’s only supposed to be when you have been unsuccessful at resolving your differences in private.
This really reminds me of when Trump demanded Comey give him his loyalty and Comey compromised by giving him “honest loyalty.” Similarly, Trump’s biggest peeve at Sessions isn’t that he wasn’t completely forthright with Congress, but rather that he wasn’t doing what was best for Trump and being loyal to him. President Trump was elected on the promise to “drain the swamp” but bullying Sessions for putting integrity over personal loyalty is very swamp-like behavior. Trump needs to snap out of it and cut it out this instant otherwise if he doesn’t watch it, he will become part of the DC swamp.
Follow Publius Tacitus on Twitter at @PCTacitus