Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday that he plans to stay in his job despite the president’s public assertion that he would not have nominated Sessions to the post had he known that he would recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
At a news conference ostensibly meant to announce the takedown of an illicit online marketplace, Sessions said he had the “honor of serving as attorney general,” and he planned “to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate.” Asked how he could keep working, having apparently lost President Trump’s confidence, Sessions responded: “We’re serving right now. The work we’re doing today is the kind of work that we intend to continue.”
Republicans are rallying around Sessions, whispering that he has been humiliated and suggesting that Trump is undeserving of such a loyal adviser. Sorry, but this is a pair who deserve one another. Sessions knew exactly what he was getting into when he teamed up with a candidate who insulted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and POWs and attacked a federal court judge on the grounds that his ethnicity prevented him from doing his job. Sessions apparently didn’t think anything was amiss when Trump invited the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. Sessions was willing to stick by him after the “Access Hollywood” tape revelation. Once in office, Sessions did not flinch when Trump impugned our intelligence services, gave code-word classified information to the Russian foreign minister and fired the FBI director. Sessions violated the broad language of his recusal to participate in James B. Comey’s firing and incorporated by reference Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s absurd, pretextual memo saying that Comey treated Clinton unfairly. Sessions isn’t motivated to quit or sound the alarm bell when Trump threatens Comey, lies about tapes or attempts to intimidate the special counsel.
Sessions is the last person who deserves our sympathy. He was willing to sell his political soul to enable Trump, and he has enabled him every step of the way. Unlike Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who plays a vital role in insulating the military from Trump and literally preventing nuclear war, Sessions is not maintaining the integrity of the Justice Department. He has normalized and rationalized conduct that flies in face of the rule of law.
As Bob Bauer put it in commenting on the interview in which Trump degraded Sessions, “The President displays an ethical posture defined by a narrow and intense concern with his own interests. This is an ethics that may have served him well in business. However, it will have disastrous consequences when carried over into the exercise of his public responsibility as President—a duty to act on behalf of others.” And Sessions sees nothing is amiss? He thinks it is appropriate to lay down a “red line” with a special counsel, threatening to fire him if he (as is essential) explores Trump’s finances to determine illegality and/or ways in which Trump might have been compromised?
Sessions, precisely because he was close to Trump and the darling of the far right, at any point along the way could have taken a principled stand, refused to participate in Trump’s efforts to shut down the Russia investigation and decried efforts to bully the special counsel — who was appointed by his own department (by Rosenstein in the wake of Sessions’s recusal). No, we have zero sympathy for Sessions. He is no victim; he’s a perpetrator.