Jeff Sessions continues to prove he’s Trump’s biggest mistake
Jeff Sessions is a man in search of a banana peel. When he can’t find one to step on, he supplies his own.
Sessions is not a bad man, but he is a bad attorney general, as he demonstrated again Tuesday.
By writing to Republicans in Congress just hours before he was scheduled to testify that he was open to appointing a special prosecutor to examine former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s email case and the notorious Uranium One deal, Sessions primed the pump for a really big show.
Democrats arrived furious and Republicans gleefully expected an aha moment. Both came away unsatisfied and unhappy.
Unfortunately for Sessions, the old conceit in journalism — that if both sides are angry at your story, you’ve done something right — doesn’t apply to being attorney general. When nobody’s happy, including your boss, you’re failing.
While Democrats and Republicans are angry at Sessions for different reasons, there’s no rule saying both can’t be right.
The litany of things he couldn’t remember or couldn’t discuss seemed calculated to frustrate rather than enlighten. The fact that he thought non-answers to big questions would be good enough reflects how poorly he fits his job.
His faulty judgment has become a calling card, which is why I’ve argued that appointing Sessions was Trump’s biggest personnel mistake; yesterday’s performance did nothing to change my view.
There’s also a new bonus reason: Had Sessions stayed as a senator from Alabama, Roy Moore’s dirty history would have remained a secret instead of a national scandal that could help flip Senate control.
Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from anything related to the 2016 campaign, then tell Trump, led to the enormous cloud over the White House that has distorted the first year of the new presidency.
Consider the alternative. Imagine that Robert Mueller were still in private law practice, and there were no open-ended investigation of everybody connected to the Trump campaign.
Then all of Washington would have to accept the election as settled and deal with Trump as president, not as a piñata on a short-term lease.
So while Trump erred in naming Sessions, Sessions is responsible for taking the job when he knew he would have to sit out the most important matter before his agency, one that increasingly smells like an extension of the Democrats’ bid to overturn the election.
In that sense, it was especially galling that Sessions refused to answer direct questions about the Russian dossier prepared for Clinton’s campaign, including whether the FBI under Comey paid the author and used the document to request wiretaps on Trump associates. Sessions never gave a reason why he couldn’t answer such important questions.
Then there’s the Uranium One deal, which allowed Russia to gain control of 20 percent of America’s uranium supply. On its face, the 2010 deal made little sense but drew little attention because so little was known of it.
That was by intent, with the role of an FBI informant who blew the whistle on the crimes of an involved Russian company kept secret as the Obama administration, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, green-lighted the deal.
Soon, a gusher of money flowed the Clintons’ way, with Bill getting a $500,000 speaking gig in Moscow and as much as $145 million going to the Clinton Foundation from parties with a stake in the transaction.
That Mueller was the head of the FBI then, and Rod Rosenstein was the US attorney in Maryland, is not incidental. Both played major roles in a case that now looks like a cover-up, yet they are now deciding the fate of the Trump presidency.
Rosenstein, as Sessions’ deputy, assumed his powers after the recusal and named his friend Mueller special counsel. Neither they nor Comey should be above scrutiny or rules governing conflicts of interest.
In obvious ways, Sessions’ letter saying he was open to a new special counsel for these issues looked like both a tit-for-tat move and a response to Trump’s demands to investigate Clinton.
Those suspicions were raised by Dems, which was both inevitable and pointless. The only test that matters is whether the former administration tried to hide facts that would have killed the uranium deal, whether the former secretary of state gave her approval in exchange for a windfall, and whether the probe of her emails was rigged by the Obama Justice Department.
Yet once again, Sessions quibbled with most of those questions rather than answer them directly, leaving confusion about why he wrote the letter in the first place and whether he actually intends to do anything.
Because of the Moore mess and Trump’s unhappiness with Sessions, the White House has floated the idea that Sessions might want to go back to his Senate seat. The move could simultaneously solve two problems, and though it would be tricky, Sessions’ latest flubs prove it is the best possible outcome.