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Donald Trump,Jeff Sessions
President Donald Trump with Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony in Quantico, Va., in 2017.Evan Vucci / AP file

As Trump and Sessions feud, both manage to be wrong

Usually, when two politicians feud, at least one has the facts on their side. What's amazing about the Trump-Sessions dispute is that they're both wrong.


It seems like ages ago, when former Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) announced a campaign in Alabama to reclaim his old U.S. Senate seat, Donald Trump had very little to say. The president with little impulse control was uncharacteristically reticent, despite his seething contempt for his former cabinet secretary.

That restraint has since disappeared.

President Donald Trump continued his online feud Saturday with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who stood up to his old boss after Trump encouraged Alabama voters to reject Sessions in his bid to return to the U.S. Senate. Trump on Friday afternoon once again tweeted his endorsement for Sessions' rival, college football coach Tommy Tuberville, in the primary contest for the seat Sessions held before joining Trump's Cabinet.

According to the president's Memorial Day Weekend tweet, the former attorney general recused himself from the investigation into the Russia scandal, which cleared the way for what Trump called "the Fraudulent Mueller Scam began." Trump added, "Alabama, do not trust Jeff Sessions. He let our Country down."

For his part, Sessions is well aware of the president's popularity in Alabama, and he's gone to great lengths to tie himself to Team Trump. But on Saturday, left with limited options, Sessions adopted a very different message.

"Look, I know your anger, but recusal was required by law," the former attorney general wrote on Twitter. "I did my duty & you're damn fortunate I did. It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration. Your personal feelings don't dictate who Alabama picks as their senator, the people of Alabama do."

Trump did his best to keep the fire burning, telling a conservative media outlet that Sessions wasn't "mentally qualified" for the job.

Usually, when two politicians feud, at least one has the facts on their side. What's amazing about the Trump-Sessions dispute is that they're both wrong.

The president, for example, has repeatedly made it clear that he expected Sessions to be a partisan loyalist in the attorney general's office, making Trump's legal troubles go away whenever the president snapped his fingers. Indeed, he's left little doubt that he believed it was Sessions' job to interfere with the justice system on the president's behalf.

In effect, Trump has spent years whining that Sessions wasn't corrupt enough for his liking.

Complicating matters, Sessions' 2017 recusal was a no brainer. He had undisclosed communications with Russia during his tenure as a Trump campaign surrogate in 2016, and the Alabaman failed to disclose the interactions to the Senate Judiciary Committee ahead of his confirmation. The idea that Sessions would've been in a position to oversee an investigation into the Russia scandal was absurd. Justice Department guidelines left the then-attorney general no real wiggle room.

But Sessions' latest response was also wrong. The investigation into the Russia scandal resulted in Trump's "exoneration"? Not in this reality it doesn't. In fact, the former special counsel literally and explicitly said the report on the investigation's findings "does not exonerate" the president -- a point Mueller was careful to reiterate under oath.

As regular readers may recall, Mueller and his team found that the sitting president lied and encouraged others to lie. They also found Trump's political operation had "numerous links" with the Russian attackers who targeted our elections to put him in power. They also found Trump personally and repeatedly took a series of steps to undermine a federal criminal investigation -- in which he personally was a subject.

The special counsel said under oath that the president could still be charged with obstruction of justice after he leaves office.

I'm mindful of the fact that Sessions is on track to lose in Alabama, facing punishment for having done the right thing in early 2017, but to pretend that Trump has been "exonerated" in the Russia scandal is to pretend reality has no meaning.