It’s the feud that no one asked for. President Trump spent Wednesday morning once again subtweeting the man he personally hired to run the Department of Justice. The fact that the most powerful man on the planet “subtweets” is already embarrassing as is, but it becomes a whole different issue when he’s doing it to publicly chastise his own attorney general. It’s already tough enough for Trump to constantly have to do battle against Democrats, the media, Hollywood, the NFL, Robert Mueller, his own wife, most of America and the rest of the world. Now he’s stoking more controversy by publicly shaming his own employees, as if the leader of the free world has nothing better to do with his time.
The attack on Jeff Sessions is just the latest in the president’s barrage of attacks against his attorney general. In the summer, Trump berated Sessions in front of the entire Internet by calling him “beleaguered” and “very weak“. Keep in mind that this is a guy who promised to only hire “the best people” for his administration.
Trump surely thought Sessions was the right man for the job in the beginning. The former Alabama senator was one of the first major Republicans to endorse Trump during his campaign and asserted his loyalty early on. After his election win, Trump controversially awarded Sessions with the coveted attorney general job.
All was well between the two until Jeff Sessions was pressured into recusing himself from the Russia investigation. The move ultimately led to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein hiring Robert Mueller, infuriating the president. Odds are, the investigation would likely be over now if Sessions was still in charge of it. Since the incident, Trump has said on record that he would not have hired Sessions if he would have known that the attorney general would recuse himself. Now Trump is trying everything he can to force his former ally to hand in his resignation. The only problem for the president is that Sessions refuses to do so, leaving the two at a stalemate that doesn’t look to be getting resolved any time soon.
Many people are asking why Trump doesn’t just fire Sessions if he is clearly so fed up with him. This public feud is serving no purpose but to make both men look foolish. The truth of the matter is that firing Sessions right now does Trump more harm than good.
Adding the attorney general’s name to the historically long list of White House departures so far would be another embarrassment for the administration. Sessions’s exit would also come at a time when Chief of Staff John Kelly and national security adviser H.R. McMaster are both rumored to be on the outs. Following the Rob Porter fiasco, the White House really needs to appear stable in the coming weeks. Trump firing the attorney general because he recused himself from an ongoing investigation against him would not help that narrative.
Terminating Sessions also serves the White House no real positive purpose. Yes, Trump despises Sessions, but the two seem to agree on nearly every issue. The top law enforcement law officer has wordlessly endured all of the president’s attacks, while still remaining fiercely loyal to the administration. He is even considering Trump’s request to appoint another special counsel — this time to go after one of Trump’s longtime opponents, Hillary Clinton. Even after getting publicly attacked, Sessions still does everything he can to please his boss. It is hard to find this kind of blind loyalty anywhere, let alone in the cutthroat town of Washington, D.C.
Firing Sessions will have no impact on the Russian investigation, thanks to his recusal, and his devotion to Trump cannot be overlooked. For this alone, he may be worth keeping onboard. Besides, if a dedicated employee like Sessions can be fired for doing the legally correct thing, then other potential hires might be wary of taking the job.
Lastly, firing Sessions in this political climate could end up being very costly for Trump. No one can say with certainty that his replacement nominee would be able to win a Senate confirmation. Congress is so divided by party that it would effectively only take two Republican senators to shoot down any Trump nomination. Judging by Trump’s lack of success in Congress thus far, it is doubtful that he will be able to sneak a Jeff Sessions type candidate through the highly partisan Senate.
For right now, it would appear that the two seventy-one year old Republicans are stuck with one another. Trump knows he really shouldn’t fire his attorney general and Sessions doesn’t look to have any plans of stepping down. It’s like a bad buddy comedy movie, with America serving as the punchline. Perhaps the two old friends will reconcile and remember all that they have in common (racism, sexism, a love of lying, etc). It would certainly make things much easier for both of them, especially now that the Mueller investigation is really intensifying. At this rate, the duo might end up having to share a prison cell.
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