Last week, Donald Trump complained bitterly about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, condemning the Alabama Republican’s decision to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal. The president’s argument wasn’t subtle: Trump wanted Sessions to help shield the White House, and he’s outraged that the A.G. isn’t helping cover up the controversy.
Almost immediately, there was a question about whether Sessions, lacking the confidence of the president who appointed him, would have to resign, but the attorney general vowed to remain at his post.
That, in turn, has apparently led to a new strategy: Trump will attack Sessions publicly, in the hopes that the attorney general will get the hint and quit.
President Donald Trump blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Twitter early Tuesday as having a “very weak position” when it comes to investigating Hillary Clinton and intelligence leakers.
His tweetstorm began with claims that Ukraine had tried to “sabotage” his campaign in favor of his Democratic rival. He appeared to allude to a Politico report in January that said a Ukrainian-American operative working for the Democratic National Committee had gone to the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington for help to uncover any ties between Trump, campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia.
“So where is the investigation A.G.,” Trump tweeted.
As Rachel noted on last night’s show, this comes against the backdrop of a new Washington Post report, which said the president and his advisers “are privately discussing the possibility of replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and some confidants are floating prospects who could take his place were he to resign or be fired, according to people familiar with the talks.”
It’s hard to overstate how extraordinary these developments are.
Sessions isn’t just another cabinet member on Team Trump. The Alabama Republican was the first – and for a while, the only – senator to support Trump’s candidacy during the campaign. In time, Sessions’ priorities became Trump’s priorities, and the Washington Post reported in January, “From immigration and health care to national security and trade, Sessions is the intellectual godfather of the president’s policies.”
Stephen Bannon once put it this way: “Throughout the campaign, Sessions has been the fiercest, most dedicated, and most loyal promoter in Congress of Trump’s agenda, and has played a critical role as the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy to undergird the implementation of that agenda.”
What’s more, several key figures in Trump’s West Wing were members of Sessions’ Capitol Hill team. When then-president-elect started choosing cabinet members, Sessions’ nomination was, predictably, first.
For the president to discard Sessions now, deciding he no longer has any use for his loyal attorney general, is a seismic political divorce.
But just as important, if not more so, is the motivation behind the developments. The president is furious with his former compatriot because, in true authoritarian style, he expected Sessions to do his bidding – investigating Trump’s political enemies while protecting Trump’s political interests.
Making matters worse, the president knows that if Sessions is out, Trump can appoint a new A.G. who may be far more amenable to making the White House’s Russia scandal disappear.
If congressional Republicans aren’t comfortable with this, they should show a little courage and say so, but I’d recommend keeping expectations low.