By Quin Hillyer at the New York Times;

MOBILE, Ala. — Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, the Queens-born developer and the Alabama lawyer, are finding that similar positions on political issues can mask deep differences on underlying principles.

For Mr. Trump, who has excoriated his attorney general on Twitter and reportedly discussed firing him, what matters most is personal loyalty to him, or rather loyalty to whatever he thinks his needs are at any particular moment. For Mr. Sessions, fealty to the law trumps all. For Republicans nationwide, it’s an acid test: side with a mercurial president who demands devotion, or with the attorney general, who insists on probity and the letter of the law.

If there’s one thing you need to know about Mr. Sessions, it’s that he reveres the Constitution, as he understands it. He was the author, in his first Senate term, of a law that established a commission to commemorate the 250th birthday of the “father of the Constitution,” James Madison, in 2001, and to use it as an occasion for constitutional and civic education. Mr. Sessions introduced Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist at the birthday gala, and personally convened a symposium of Madisonian scholars that met in conjunction with it.

For better or worse, Mr. Sessions sees the world in black-and-white, law-and-order terms — criminals on one side and trustworthy law enforcement on the other. That’s one reason he has re-expanded the use of civil asset forfeiture, drawing intense (and deserved) criticism from across the political spectrum. He takes the same approach with illegal narcotics.

This same worldview explains why he so readily recused himself from the Russia investigation; for him, this was a simple procedural question. In Senate testimony he accurately described the effective meaning of the regulation that governed his recusal: “Department employees should not participate in investigations of a campaign if they have served as a campaign adviser.”

Moreover, he has deep faith in the American political system and its institutions. He is deeply trusting of the Justice Department’s criminal division; his highly regarded deputy, Rod Rosenstein; and the professionalism of the F.B.I. rank and file. In Mr. Sessions’ mind, removing himself from the equation put Mr. Trump in no more or less legal danger than before, because the facts and the law would lead where they would lead, regardless of his participation.

If anything, Mr. Sessions most likely thought he was doing what was best for the president….

[The full column in defense of Sessions is here.]


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