Trump aims Russia rage at Sessions
President Trump escalated his unprecedented public campaign against his attorney general this week, attacking Jeff Sessions as “beleaguered” and “very weak,” and repeatedly suggesting he might fire the senior Cabinet member over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Sessions’ recusal “was unfair to the president, and that’s a mild word,” Trump initially told The New York Times. In the following days, the president launched several attacks on Sessions—one of Trump’s earliest and most outspoken supporters—railing against him on Twitter for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton for “crimes and Russia relations,” and saying the attorney general should have done more to crack down on intelligence leaks. Asked during a news conference if he planned to fire Sessions, Trump replied, “Time will tell.”
Democrats accused Trump of targeting Sessions as part of a broader strategy to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and perhaps to make it possible to file Mueller. “The president is being very transparent,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). “He wants to appoint a more malleable attorney general...who can tell Bob Mueller, ‘You will look at this, but you won’t look at these other areas.’” Conservative groups rallied to the attorney general’s defense, and Sessions said he would stay on “as long as that is appropriate.”
What the columnists said
“Donald Trump is a nightmare boss,” said Michael Brendan Dougherty in NationalReview.com. The president demands absolute loyalty from his political hirelings. Yet the moment he feels cornered, he gleefully humiliates those same supporters to “redirect all the blame below.” Ditching Sessions won’t “help Trump in the longer run,” said David Graham in TheAtlantic.com. If the president succeeds in interfering with Mueller’s Russia investigation, it will only increase suspicions “that Trump has something to hide.” Besides, after the way he’s treated Sessions, who could Trump ever persuade to take the attorney general’s place?
The president is right to be furious about the Russia witch-hunt, said Scott Greer in DailyCaller.com. But “firing Sessions would be terrible for Trumpism.” The attorney general has done more than any other Cabinet member to advance Trump’s anti-establishment, anti-immigration agenda—using the Justice Department to target sanctuary cities and back tough law-enforcement measures. “Trump said he was creating a movement to make America great again.” But without loyal soldiers like Sessions, that movement “will die.”
Trump’s humiliation of Sessions is a “multitiered tower of political idiocy,” said Ross Douthat in The New York Times. The president is telling other frustrated Cabinet members “to get out while the getting’s good,” and his behavior damages his standing with Republican senators and voters who admire Sessions. Trump is incapable of exercising sane judgment, conscience, or self-control. “You can be as loyal as Sessions and still suffer the consequences of that plain and inescapable truth: The president should not be the president, and the sooner he is not, the better.” ■