Screengrab from https://twitter.com/FoxNews/status/1032578032425463808
This morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions found himself back under the laser focus of President Trump’s displeasure. The venue was Trump’s go-to outlet, Fox & Friends:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 23, 2018
This is via the New York Post:
“I put in an attorney general who never took control of the Justice Department. Jeff Sessions, never took control of the Justice Department. It’s sort of an incredible thing,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” in an interview that aired Thursday.
“It’s a very, very sad day. Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn’t have done or he should have told me,” he said. “Even my enemies say that Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself and then you wouldn’t have put him in.”
“He took my job, and then he said, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.’ I said, ‘What kind of man is this?’” Trump added.
“And by the way, he was on the campaign,” he said. “You know, the only reason I gave him the job is because I felt loyalty. He was an original supporter.”
Despite his annoyance with the special counsel’s investigation, Trump declined to say whether he would fire Sessions or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who’s now Mueller’s boss.
“I will stay uninvolved and maybe that’s the best thing to do,” he said.
Trump also had harsh words for the Justice Department, saying corruption infected the organization during the Obama administration.
“When everybody sees what’s going on in the Justice Department, I always put ‘justice’ now with quotes, it’s a very, very sad day,” he said.
Since then South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham says he thinks this particular drama is about over:
“The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that’s qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who may be in line to head the Judiciary Committee next year, told reporters Thursday. “Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”
On the whole, I think Trump has this mostly right. While it is entirely possible that Trump didn’t see a special counsel coming and realize that Sessions’ status as a campaign surrogate would virtually demand that he recuse himself, the same can’t be said of Sessions. If he didn’t see what was more likely than not going to happen, then he’s not really qualified to be Attorney General. It does bear all the hallmarks of Sessions wanting the AG slot as a career capstone and calculating that recusal would keep him from getting mired down in the special counsel.
Some are belittling the claim that Sessions never got control of Justice, but its true. Justice has been a Democrat preserve for 50 or so years. There are only a handful of political appointees to try to corral and move a huge bureaucracy that obviously worked pretty hard to elect Hillary Clinton. How Bruce Ohr still has a job is a total bafflement to me and he is really emblematic of the problem. The Democrat civil servants in Justice are essentially at war with the administration. Sessions can do a few things where he has direct authority, but in terms of managing Justice, no. The best you can say is that Sessions is riding a tiger. In reality, he’s being dragged behind a runaway Prius.
Unfortunately, Trump is really stuck with Sessions until the Mueller investigation winds down. If he fires Sessions before then, he won’t get someone confirmed who is any more likely to clean out that cesspool than Sessions. He might elect to replace Sessions with an acting attorney general who can hold the job for (IIRC) 240 days before either being submitted for confirmation or vacating the office.
Trump also said that he will probably step in to make Justice release documents it is now refusing to share with Congress.
Trump: I may have to force Justice Department to turn over documents https://t.co/JIpXpNqqCd
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) August 23, 2018
This is the single biggest indictment of Sessions’ tenure at Justice. There is a great deal of evidence that the documents Justice is withholding will blow holes in the whole dossier nonsense. If that happens, then Mueller’s entire raison d’être is questionable. The fact that the declassified documents have only gone in one direction…in favor of Trump…and given his insistence that documents be released, it is a fair assumption that his tweets are a good indication of what is in them. The fact that Sessions has not made declassifying everything to do with the dossier a top priority remains a bafflement if we don’t assume that he’s been effectively captured by career staff who are protecting their prerogatives if not their asses.
That said, this treating Jeff Sessions like the Turks treated Marcantonio Bragadin is unseemly. Interviews like today will make it harder to find someone he wants who can be confirmed. In fact, publicly slamming Sessions isn’t going to solve any of his problems and it will make some of them much worse.
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