Why Jeff Sessions is smart to hit back at Trump

Attorney General Jeff Sessions deservedly garners harsh criticism for his support for anti-immigration hysteria, recriminalization of marijuana (which disproportionately harms non-whites), civil forfeiture (also discriminatory in practice) and negligence in enforcing voting rights. However, when the man is right, he deserves praise.

The Post reports:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions pushed back forcefully Thursday against fresh criticism from President Trump, saying the Justice Department would not be “improperly influenced by political considerations.”

The extraordinary statement came hours after Trump lashed out anew at Sessions, saying he had failed to take control of the Justice Department and was given his job only because of his loyalty during the 2016 campaign.

In a Thursday morning interview with “Fox & Friends,” the president said a bunch of wacky things, including deploring the common practice of “flipping” (used to put away mob killers, by the way). He told the Fox host who was tossing softballs with no tough follow-ups, “He took the job, and then he said, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.’ I said, ‘What kind of man is this?’ ” An honest and ethical man.

The Post’s report continues:

Following Trump’s comments in a morning television interview, two leading Republican senators suggested he could be replaced following the November elections.

Sessions said in his statement: “I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda—one that protects the safety and security and rights of the American people, reduces violent crime, enforces our immigration laws, promotes economic growth, and advances religious liberty.

The shameful statements egging Trump on came from none other than Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who cheerfully offered to find time to hold hearings on a replacement, and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). Why Graham and Grassley would encourage behavior that could set off a constitutional crisis is mystifying. If confirmed, that person of course would control special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation instead of Deputy Attorney General Rod. J. Rosenstein. And, yes, this is another instance in which Trump is handing the special counsel evidence of corrupt intent to disable the investigation.

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Some former prosecutors were encouraged by Sessions’s willingness to speak out. Former prosecutor Renato Mariotti told me, “One of the most important roles of the attorney general is to defend the rule of law and the work of the Justice Department. It’s good to finally see Jeff Sessions stand up for thousands of career non-political employees who work hard to protect us.”

Likewise, former prosecutor Joyce Allen White remarked, “It’s good to see Attorney General Sessions finally stand up for the men and women of the Department of Justice. They deserve an Attorney General who has their back and protects them against improper political influence from this (or any) White House so they can do their jobs, protect the American people and uphold the rule of law.”

Ultimately, Sessions was smart to push back strongly, especially now, for several reasons:

  • Trump is at a low point, and risks setting off a firestorm if he fires Sessions.
  • Sessions needs to protect the integrity of the Justice Department, whose lawyers appear in court and before juries and also communicate with witnesses. If Trump smears the department, Sessions’s department loses essential trust.
  • Sessions needs to separate himself from Trump, who is accumulating legal troubles at an alarming rate. Remember Sessions was on the campaign, offered untrue testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his Russia contacts and participated in the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey. He needs to make sure he doesn’t go down with the presidential ship.
  • And finally, it’s the right thing to do. Trump is trashing the rule of law and the independence of the Justice Department. If our democracy is permanently damaged, we’ll remember who was captaining DOJ.

Because Graham and Grassley opened the door, every Republican on the ballot needs to say whether an effort to squelch the Russia investigation by replacing Sessions with a Trump stooge would be grounds for impeachment.

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