Will Jeff Sessions quit if Trump does the DREAM deal?
It’s one thing for him to endure public and private humiliation over a perfectly defensible ethical decision, like recusing himself from the Russiagate probe, if it means getting to quarterback a federal crackdown on illegal immigration. That’s his life’s work and Trump handed him tremendous power as head of the DOJ to pursue it on the grandest scale. You don’t lightly quit a job like that no matter how demeaning the boss is.
But what if … you don’t get to crack down on illegals? What if you hold a press conference announcing the cancellation of Obama’s executive amnesty, due partly to the damage illegal labor is doing to young Americans’ ambitions, and then that same demeaning boss turns around and says he’s moving full speed ahead to legalize that illegal labor? There’s no point in enduring humiliation after humiliation to pursue your life’s work if you don’t, in fact, get to pursue it.
Interesting timing on this NYT story, speaking of which. On the very day Trump makes the case on Twitter that deporting DREAMers is cruel, his point man on ending DACA has to read a blow-by-blow of his embarrassing dressing-down by the president in the Oval Office in May. The Times claims too many sources for me to believe that this leak was orchestrated for maximum impact on Sessions in terms of timing, but the story itself notes Trump’s developing DREAM deal is an especially harsh blow to the AG. The poor guy landed his dream job — no pun intended — and it’s turned into a nightmare. The scene: The White House, May 17th. Trump, Sessions, Mike Pence, and White House counsel Don McGahn are meeting to discuss who’ll replace Comey. McGahn’s phone rings. It’s Rod Rosenstein, calling to let him know that he’s appointing Bob Mueller special counsel on Russiagate.
Mr. Sessions would later tell associates that the demeaning way the president addressed him was the most humiliating experience in decades of public life…
When the phone call ended, Mr. McGahn relayed the news to the president and his aides. Almost immediately, Mr. Trump lobbed a volley of insults at Mr. Sessions, telling the attorney general it was his fault they were in the current situation. Mr. Trump told Mr. Sessions that choosing him to be attorney general was one of the worst decisions he had made, called him an “idiot,” and said that he should resign.
An emotional Mr. Sessions told the president he would resign and left the Oval Office. That evening, as the Justice Department publicly announced the appointment of Mr. Mueller, the attorney general wrote a brief resignation letter to the president that was later sent to the White House. A person familiar with the events raised the possibility that Mr. Sessions had become emotional because the impact of his recusal was becoming clear.
Trump reportedly wanted to accept Sessions’s resignation but was talked out of it by, among other people, Steve Bannon. Bannon, having watched Trump make the biggest mistake in modern political history by firing Comey, didn’t want to watch him make the second-biggest by forcing out Sessions, unleashing total chaos at the DOJ and alienating the border hawks in his base who love the AG. Bannon gets knocked around in the media as some sort of nationalist wild man but he was cool and clear-eyed in that situation. Too bad we can’t say the same of the boss. Trump apparently returned Sessions’s resignation letter to him — with a handwritten note on it, although the Times doesn’t say what the note was. One trembles at the thought.
Incidentally, this makes two tippy-top Trump aides now who’ve allegedly told friends that the verbal lashings they’ve gotten from Trump were the most humiliating experiences of their long careers as public servants. One is Sessions, a longtime senator turned attorney general. The other is John Kelly, a former four-star Marine general turned head of Homeland Security. I wonder if, say, Omarosa has been chewed out as viciously as the guy who used to head U.S. Southern Command.
I think Sessions will hang around in the assumption that either (a) he, Bannon, Stephen Miller and other nationalists can apply enough pressure on Trump publicly and otherwise to get him to back away from DREAM or (b) if they can’t, DREAM will be the only amnesty Trump agrees to as president and afterward he’ll seek to atone to his base by letting Sessions go ahead with aggressive enforcement measures against adult illegals. I may lose the battle, Sessions might be thinking, but I’ll win the war. We’ll see. The kicker to all this, meanwhile, is that every time Trump obsesses over Sessions’s Russiagate recusal, publicly and privately, he impugns the AG’s integrity by implying that Sessions would have tanked the investigation for him if he were still in charge of the probe. Think about it — the clear implication in wanting Sessions, not Rosenstein, heading up Russiagate is that Sessions is a political crony who would have run interference for POTUS if the FBI started to make his life difficult. It’s not just a matter of believing that Sessions wouldn’t have appointed Mueller or anyone else as special counsel. The insinuation seems to be that, by recusing himself and thereby removing a White House lever of power at DOJ, Sessions made it harder to potentially obstruct justice if need be. *This* is why the attorney general of the United States is being humiliated regularly. Good lord.