Trump Can Do No Better Than Sessions
Shakeup at DOJ would all but guarantee obstruction of replacement, while putting new focus on Russia
Is President Trump about to make the biggest mistake of his presidency? If he’s planning to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the answer is “yes.” I’m not “fake news” CNN or “the failing New York Times,” or one of the thousands of opinion writers rooting for the president to fail. I predicted Trump would win the election in the rust belt, I’ve blasted the MSM’s bogus collusion narrative, and I’m pretty sure I was the first writer ever to say that President Trump should never stop tweeting. But I’m also not a flatterer who’s willing to compliment the president right off a cliff.
Trump spent the past week criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump called Sessions “weak” and “beleaguered.” He told The New York Times that he never would have appointed Sessions as AG if he’d known Sessions would recuse himself. All this has led to rampant media speculation that Sessions’s career at the Department of Justice won’t live to see August.
Put aside that without Sessions, Trump would probably be a private citizen doing a weekly bit on "Fox and Friends," where he complains about President Clinton. Put aside that Sessions is the Cabinet member who has done the most to advance the Trump agenda. Put fact that he gave up a U.S. Senate seat to serve in the administration. Put aside his recusal and whatever other mistakes he might have made. Only one fact matters: He's the best Trump can do. Period.
Firing Sessions would deplete Trump's dwindling political capital, cost him many conservative supporters, ignite an epic mainstream media meltdown, and drop his approval rating. Now, the president has shown that he isn't afraid of any of those consequences, and that's admirable. That's why American voters sent him to the White House. The problem is not that those consequences are unacceptable. The problem is that he would incur them without any payoff. Those consequences would be the way-too-steep price of a zero-upside political loss.
The president's political reality is this: If he fires Sessions, he won't be able to replace him with someone he likes better. No Attorney General Cruz. No Attorney General Guiliani. Not even an Attorney General Christie.
If ousting Sessions is the first step in a plan to firing Special Counsel Mueller — who never should have been appointed in the first place — it's a bad plan. It's the heist from "Ocean's Twelve," "Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly," and "Phelps vs. Shark" all rolled into one.
If the Russia collusion narrative is a "nothing-burger" the media's chowing down on, this is President Trump serving up an order of nothing-fries and a nothing-shake to go with it. With Sessions gone, Rod Rosenstein — the deputy AG who chose Comey BFF Robert Mueller — would become acting AG. If Trump fired Sessions and Rosenstein, the job of acting AG would fall to Rachel Brand.
Would Brand be willing to fire Mueller? Who knows? But she would be under tremendous pressure not to. If she didn't, would the next-in-line U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia do it? Would the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern district of North Carolina do it? Would Trump keep firing these people until he found someone in the line of succession who was willing to pink-slip Mueller?
It sounds crazy, but that's how President Richard Nixon got rid of special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973. Nixon fired three people before landing on Robert Bork, who carried out the order.
Some Trump fans cheer the idea of ousting Sessions with visions of Attorney General Cruz dancing in their head, but that would be a nearly impossible feat. Trump almost certainly won't be able to get 50 Republican Senators on board to appoint a new attorney general who will fire Mueller. Senators like Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have shown throughout the health care fight that they aren't afraid of breaking with the party and stiff-arming President Trump.
It's nearly impossible to imagine them helping the president to appoint a Sessions replacement. The echo-chamber mainstream media would be boiling over with comparisons to Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre," and there are several Republican senators whose tragically unachievable life ambition is to be praised in The New York Times' editorial section. They're not going to confirm a new attorney general for Trump.
There will likely be a recess in August, but according to the Hill, "Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the Senate Judiciary Committee is 'exploring' measures that would block President Trump from appointing an acting attorney general to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the August recess, effectively allowing him to circumvent the need for congressional confirmation."
Democrats would almost certainly succeed in such an effort, especially with a pro-Sessions/anti-Sessions schism forming among President Trump's base of supporters. That schism would allow even greater political cover for Senate Republicans, who are already walking the obstruct-Trump tightrope.
Bottom line: By firing Jeff Sessions, President Trump could very well be placing the fate of his agenda in the hands of the 52 Republican Senators. On the wise-o-meter, that would rank somewhere between letting Bernie Madoff hold your wallet and asking Michael Vick to dogsit.
President Trump needs to make the best of the DOJ status quo because ousting Sessions could lead his presidency into an unrecoverable tailspin.
Eddie Zipperer is an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College and a regular LifeZette contributor.
(photo credit, homepage image: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)