By Ron Hosko, LE Action President
Two years ago, stumping presidential candidate Donald Trump playfully teased an audience of thousands in Madison, Alabama. He had a surprise for the assembly, one he was clearly pleased with and one he knew would captivate this particular group. Waiting in the wings was Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, who would be among the first D.C. power players to step up to back the Trump candidacy.
Doing so put Sessions at immediate risk. Trump was an outsider, given to condemning all that is the D.C. Beltway culture — the Swamp — which he promised to change if elected. Trump was mercurial, outspoken, and given to childlike attributes like hanging sticky, unflattering nicknames on his opponents.
But on that Sunday stage in Alabama, Trump was all smiles as he welcomed the senator to the podium. Sessions had deeply conservative credentials, most recently standing in opposition to half-baked federal sentencing reform proposals being circulated in both houses of Congress. His tenure in the Senate gave Trump’s candidacy a new gravitas and credibility.
With the surprise election results, the president-elect returned the Sessions favor and pushed him forth as attorney general. But, as questions of Russian influence of the election grew more pointed and undisclosed interactions between Trump’s campaign and Russians were revealed, the new attorney general had a momentous decision stalking him.
One year after that Madison, Alabama introduction, Jeff Sessions recused himself from the ongoing Russia election interference investigations and set the stage for the appointment of a special counsel by his new deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.
The decision by Sessions to recuse himself shouldn’t have been a difficult one to reach for an astute senator who’d spent much of his adulthood working on criminal justice issues. Sessions had been challenged in his confirmation hearing about his own intersections with Russians during the campaign and his sometimes-conflicting statements only brought more questions.
Sessions did the right thing in recusing himself. Whether he had an actual conflict needn’t be debated — he had, at minimum, the appearance of a conflict, demanding he step away from the probe. In doing so, he dropped the Russian hot potato into the lap of a skilled, highly capable, deputy attorney general.
Now, on the second anniversary of Trump’s introduction of Senator Sessions and his endorsement, and on the first anniversary of Sessions’ recusal, comes another presidential Twitterstorm directed at his Attorney General:
Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2018
The tweet is a trifecta, simultaneously slamming his own chief law enforcement official while sideswiping his predecessor and starting the undermining of the DOJ Inspector General in the event his coming FBI report doesn’t meet presidential expectations.
The president’s tweet isn’t his first misguided slam at an attorney general who has been vigorously addressing White House violent crime reduction strategy and aggressively fulfilling the Trump agenda.
Last July, the president tweeted, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” Days later, this presidential offering:
Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
...big dollars ($700,000) for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
Then, days ago, Trump fired this shot at Sessions:
Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation? Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2018
President Trump’s latest blast at his attorney general is yet another misdirected shot. Attorney General Sessions has again taken the exact necessary steps to ensure a full and fair investigation precedes a conclusion which the American people expect. The Department of Justice Inspector General offers the hope of thoroughness and impartiality that seems to elude Congress. It’s independent and detailed, even if a bit glacial in its pace, though being slow often allows better accuracy.
There may be a time and place for a scorched earth policy coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. However, misdirected online rants whose direct or collateral damage results only in the undermining of the little remaining trust Americans have in our institutions of government should not be part of that policy.
Attorney General Sessions’ actions have again been the right ones, Mr. President; your tweets, the wrong ones.