By Quin Hillyer, original to this site, not published elsewhere;

Lord knows that nobody’s perfect — and Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a big mistake this week. But his mistake, despite renewed attacks against him by Donald Trump, was not related in any way to the ongoing investigation into the Trump camp’s dealings with Russia. It was Sessions’ decision to expand civil asset forfeiture, and you can read about it at this link.

But one policy mistake does not mean Sessions is a bad attorney general.

If only Trump had the knowledge base to know what Sessions is, and isn’t, doing right!

Instead, Trump, in an interview with the New York Times, issued a despicable broadside against Sessions. Trump’s attack must not be allowed to stand unchallenged.

Trump said that it was “unfair” for Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, and that Sessions should have told him in advance that he would do so — in which case Trump would not have appointed Sessions as AG in the first place.

Trump is wrong, and asinine, on at least three levels here.

  1. On a personal level, Trump is now proving that loyalty runs only one way for him. To so openly attack Sessions, who has done so much for him and been so loyal to him, is beneath contempt. There is no excuse for such a public attack against an AG and a supposed friend, especially because the friend has done absolutely nothing against Trump.
  2. On a factual basis, Trump is wrong twice over. First, it is absurd for Trump to say that Sessions should have told him in advance he would recuse himself. This is so obviously wrong as to be laughable. Sessions could not have so informed him in advance, because it was not known in advance that the Russia probe was turning its focus so heavily on the Trump campaign — and because Sessions, before he took over as AG, had not been in position to be briefed on the state of the investigation and on the ethics rules regarding it. Second, and much more importantly, Trump is willfully and aggressively ignorant to say Sessions had any real choice as to whether to recuse himself. At a Senate hearing, Sessions quite clearly cited, aloud, word for word, the Justice Department regulation that required his recusal. It says that if there is a potentially criminal investigation into a campaign, then nobody who was an agent of the campaign should be allowed to be part of Justice’s investigation. Sessions was an agent of the Trump campaign, without a doubt. He did the right thing, and the honorable thing, by recusing himself once the shape of the investigation became clear. For Trump to make it all about himself, rather than about Sessions’ duty, is both selfish and corrosive of the legal process.
  3. On a strategic level, Trump is being, well, stupid. Let’s game this out and see how obviously thoughtless Trump’s assumptions are. Trump repeatedly has indicated that he thinks Sessions’ recusal somehow left Trump more vulnerable to the investigation. Not at all — unless Trump literally expected Sessions to illegally cover up for him. Trump’s vulnerability, and the expansion of the investigation with an appointment of a special counsel, stems not from Sessions’ recusal, but from Trump’s firing of Comey followed by Trump’s statement that he fired him specifically because Trump was angry about the Russia investigation. But let’s put even that aside — let’s assume Trump is entirely innocent. Well, then, it would be in Trump’s interest to be found innocent in an investigation that is not under Sessions’ purview. If Sessions, who (until recently) was known to be very close to Trump, oversaw an investigation that cleared Trump’s name, the establishment media and its leftist allies would never accept the conclusion. They would continue to yell, even without evidence, that Sessions had somehow stacked the deck in Trump’s favor. Instead, the only way Trump can get out of this mess that is at least partly of his own making is if an investigation seen to be thoroughly independent absolves him of any wrongdoing. If Trump is innocent, that innocence will (through the media lens) be more believably established by a non-Sessions-led investigation than by a Sessions-led one. If Trump can’t understand that, he can’t reason very well from point A to point b to Point C, but instead reacts according not to reason at all but rather to unreasoning impulse.

Then again, that is usually Trump’s problem.

Everybody who understands personal decency, and all of us especially here in Sessions’ home state of Alabama, should be willing to speak up to defend Sessions from Trump’s ill-natured criticism. Sessions is a good man who does not deserve such a knife in the back.

PS  Somebody should ask all the Alabama Republican candidates in the special election to fill Sessions’ vacated Senate seat who they side with in this contretemps: Trump, or Sessions. Somebody should especially ask appointed senator Luther Strange, whose commercials have made a fetish of his supposed support for Trump, if he is still such a “Trump man” (a claim always based on flimsy evidence anyway) after Trump’s shabby treatment of Sessions. Strange’s allies are overwhelming the air waves with harsh attacks on Mo Brooks for Brooks’ criticism of Trump at times last year. The attacks have been over the top, and unworthy of Alabama. I’m no Brooks man, either (I’m undecided on whom I will vote for); but Strange should now be embarrassed at the tenor of this campaign, with this new reminder that Trump frequently does, yes, do and say things that quite clearly merit criticism, even from those who would otherwise be Trump supporters. Only a cult leader, not a politician, is above criticism from those on his side. When Brooks made the criticisms of Trump, Brooks was right to criticize him because Trump had done and said outlandish things worthy of criticism. It is a false attack, and sheer demagoguery, for Strange to countenance the out-of-context attacks on Brooks related to Brooks’ not-unreasonable criticisms of Trump.

Trump’s recent treatment of Sessions is a stark reminder that Trump sometimes goes way overboard and that even his allies are right to try to bring Trump back to earth.

Instead of making the Alabama Senate race a test of one’s slavish devotion to Dear Leader Trump, how about making it about real issues, real records, and real solutions? I challenge Strange, Brooks, Roy Moore and Trip Pittman (who has admirably stayed out of all this mud) to elevate the tone of the campaign in these last 25 days. — Quin


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