Just six months ago, Jeff Sessions promised the American people that if his fellow senators allowed him to serve as Attorney General he’d be bound by the rule of law, not by his loyalty to President Donald Trump.
Few foresaw just how quickly that pledge would be put to the test by the president, who has spent the last two weeks publicly needling Sessions as a weak and disappointing AG.
Trump has made the source of his displeasure clear. Had he known that Sessions would remove himself from oversight of the widening investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, he says he never would have nominated Sessions.
This attack, which has so far been met with steely resolve by the Cabinet member, does great damage to America. Had any other president in recent memory — from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama — expressed so naked a political view of the Department of Justice, voters on the right and left would have reacted with anger.
We need that courage now, from all sides. Trump has recast the debate over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself in purely personal terms, as is his tiresome wont. It’s “very unfair” to him and to any president, Trump contends, for his attorney general to step aside from an investigation like this.
In Trump’s world, then, a president names an attorney general primarily to ensure that Justice does not interfere with the president, rather than to ensure that justice itself runs its course.
As he has continued his attacks this week, Trump called Sessions “very weak” in not re-launching the criminal case against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the opponent Trump beat last November but can’t stop talking about.
Trump’s presidency is forever pushing boundaries. But the line that has kept the DOJ insulated from the rawest of political agendas in the White House at least since Richard Nixon blew up his presidency by ordering the Saturday Night Massacre in 1973 is one that should not bend.
A more recent lesson should have given Trump pause. Surely Trump understands how disastrously his firing of FBI Director James Comey has backfired?
But so far the only thing that seems to have kept Sessions in his job is the fact that so many of Trump’s own base see the former senator as a representative of the early true-believers that helped elect Trump.
We do not share that fondness for the politics or priorities of Sessions, whom we believed was a poor choice for Attorney General. But Trump’s assault on Sessions is a dagger stabbed straight at the heart of the department’s integrity; it’s a thrust that must be repelled.
— The Dallas Morning News, July 26