Trump Assault on Sessions Follows Playbook for Knocking Subordinates
White House confidant says president unlikely to fire AG but wants to send an unmistakable message
President Donald Trump kept up a broad and puzzling offensive against his own attorney general Tuesday, even as allies of both men nervously tried to broker a peace.
The issue will be resolved “shortly,” said Anthony Scaramucci, the new communications director for the White House, speaking to reporters during an eventful Tuesday morning.
But peace between Trump and Jeff Sessions seems far off.
Trump started Tuesday morning with yet another tweet aimed at Sessions: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!"
The latest barb set off a firestorm. It stoked speculation that Trump wanted to fire Sessions, and that Sessions may otherwise be forced to resign under pressure.
Trump's anger at Sessions is no secret given that he vented his frustrations with the attorney general during a July 19 interview with The New York Times. Trump suggested that he wants the special counsel's investigation into Russian hacking reined in. The president has warned special counsel Robert Mueller that he would view a probe of his old business deals or finances as a breach of Mueller's investigative mandate. He also wants Sessions to focus on illegal leaks.
Trump doesn't feel Sessions can accomplish that, according to a source close to Trump, due to his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation in March.
Still, Trump finds himself in a no-win scenario. If he fires Sessions, he enrages his base and also the Democrats, who would compare the firing to the controversial Comey ouster. If Sessions stays, Trump's unhappiness could continue and cause him to run further afoul of the conservatives who support Sessions. Such unhappiness and protracted controversy could distract the president from larger issues.
A longtime Trump confidant told LifeZette on Tuesday that he does not think Trump will fire Sessions. But Trump would happily accept a resignation, the adviser said.
A resignation would still leave a bad taste for many Republicans and conservatives. Sessions was defended Tuesday by former Senate colleagues and even former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who Trump has suggested privately could replace Sessions.
"Sessions doesn't deserve this," said a former top aide to Sessions, speaking to LifeZette on Tuesday. "It's despicable."
The Media Stick
No Cabinet member or staffer wants to work under an unhappy president. But Trump appears to enjoy roasting aides with whom he is displeased until they resign or get in line.
Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, suffered a similar problem in April. Back then, Trump was mad at Bannon for feuding with Jared Kushner, also an adviser to the president and Trump's son-in-law.
But firing Bannon was not really a good option for Trump, because the former Breitbart chairman helped plot Trump's course to the White House and continues to hold sway with the populist right that supported Trump in droves.
So Trump sent a message through the New York Post, when he told Michael Goodwin: "I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn't know Steve. I'm my own strategist and it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary."
On Tuesday, Trump repeated that type of indirect tactic against Sessions. Sessions' allies say he has been one of the president's most loyal defenders, and many note that Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump in the Republican primaries. (go to page 2 to continue reading)