How do you continue to work for a guy who’d knife you this way? If the answer is “duty, honor, country,” well, that didn’t stop Sessions from offering to resign a few months ago when Trump first started grumbling privately about his Russiagate recusal. Now he’s grumbling about it publicly. When the president tells reporters he never would have appointed you if he knew you’d take a certain course of action — a statement of overt regret that you work for him — how do you stay in your job and continue to look your deputies in the eye?
TRUMP: Well, Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.
HABERMAN: He gave you no heads up at all, in any sense?
TRUMP: Zero. So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.” It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy.
TRUMP: Who is he? And Jeff hardly knew. He’s from Baltimore.
“There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” Trump went on to say of Rosenstein. Which, if I understand him correctly, means that he’s saying (a) Sessions shouldn’t be Attorney General, (b) the deputy Attorney General, whom Trump himself appointed, is a probable Democratic hack, and (c) Rosenstein’s chief decision as head of the Russiagate probe, appointing Bob Mueller as special counsel, is deeply suspect even though Trump himself interviewed Mueller as a possible replacement for James Comey at the FBI. If Trump thought Mueller was a hack too, why the hell did he consider him for the FBI job?
You realize there’s a nonzero chance that the Attorney General, deputy Attorney General, director of the FBI, and special counsel will all have been fired by the end of summer, right?
I think Trump has a germ of a legitimate complaint about Sessions. If Sessions had any reason to believe he couldn’t fulfill all of the duties of leading the Justice Department, including heading the Russiagate probe, due to conflicts that might require him to recuse himself, he should have made that clear to the transition team before accepting the job. Imagine an AG being appointed and then recusing himself from all terror-related investigations, say, because of some previously unknown conflict of interest. But the fact remains that the new head of the Russiagate investigation, Rosenstein, was himself chosen by Trump. If Trump didn’t trust his integrity, why did he appoint him? And why doesn’t he drop the axe on Sessions already, which would solve both of his problems by installing a new AG whom he trusts and who would then replace Rosenstein as the new head of the Russiagate probe? Ultimately it seems like Trump’s main complaint here is that he’s been stuck with personnel he doesn’t respect yet doesn’t have the stones to replace because it would “look bad” or whatever.
Comey pal Benjamin Wittes wonders how much public presidential contempt it’ll take to force Sessions to fall on his sword, which is pretty clearly what Trump wants. Firing him so soon after appointing him might be perceived as an admission of presidential error, which Trump wouldn’t tolerate, but Sessions resigning could be spun as an admission that the error was his in accepting the job in the first place.
If Attorney General Jeff Sessions does not resign this morning, it will reflect nothing more or less than a lack of self respect on his part—a willingness to hold office even with the overt disdain of the President of the United States, at whose pleasure he serves, nakedly on the record…
He twice describes Sessions’s decision as “unfair to the president,” seemingly unaware that his recusal was almost surely compelled by Justice Department recusal rules. That is, the President is openly expressing bitterness toward his attorney general for following the rules—because the rules don’t favor Trump’s interests. He wants an attorney general who will actively supervise the Justice Department, and the Russia investigation, in a fashion congenial to his interests, and he has no compunction about saying so explicitly.
As chance would have it, Sessions was scheduled to give a press conference this morning on the DOJ’s dreadful new civil forfeiture rules. He was asked the question of the hour. Watch below to see his response. Remember, this guy had a choice between Trump and Cruz in the primaries and fatefully chose Trump, a crucial early endorsement that helped pave Trump’s way to the nomination. You bought the ticket, Jeff. Enjoy the ride. Exit quotation from a former DOJ employee, assessing Sessions’s predicament at the department now: “You got to be looking at Sessions and thinking this is ‘The Green Mile.’ This dude is walking down the hall for execution at some point, so how much are you going to worry about this guy as your boss?”
Sessions and Rosenstein asked about Trump's NYT interview torching them. Incredibly awkward situation. pic.twitter.com/ecfyAMNuFL
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) July 20, 2017