Tom Clyde: The strange case of Jeff Sessions
More Dogs on Main
July 28, 2017
Our politics are a mess. Things are polarized to the point of irrationality. "If he's fer it, I'm agin it." Don't bother us with facts, real or alternative, because they just don't matter.
Everything is black and white, right up until it isn't. Consider the strange case of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. Sessions is the elfin former senator from Alabama who was appointed attorney general by Trump.
Sessions has had a long public career. He's a sort of cartoon caricature of the unreconstructed, southern white gentleman in much the same way that Sen. Chuck Schumer is a self-parody of a New York liberal. Sessions is a very conservative guy, with a voting record to match.
He was rejected for a federal judgeship because his record on civil rights was somewhat lacking when he was attorney general in Alabama. So when Trump appointed Sessions to head the Justice Department, the liberals went into a predictable swoon.
That’s just a guess based on alternative, or maybe 'estimated' facts. Nobody knows yet.
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Sessions has some problems with his paperwork and his memory, neglecting to mention his meetings with the Russians on his security clearance forms. So when the "Russia thing" heated up, Sessions did what Justice Department protocol demands and removed himself from any supervisory role on that matter.
His assistant then appointed a special counsel, Robert Mueller, to conduct the investigation. The investigation is looking at Russian meddling in our election, but more importantly, the possibility that Trump campaign officials (campaign director Paul Manafort, campaign son Donny Jr., and boy wonder Jared Kushner, among others) had attempted to either assist in, or benefit from, the Russian meddling.
It's hard to know where the investigation will go. If I had to make a bet today, it would be that Trump's businesses have been financed by laundering money for Putin's wealthy pals, leaving the president of the U.S., who has refused to reveal much about his finances, beholden to the political elite of a foreign and hostile power. That's just a guess based on alternative, or maybe "estimated" facts. Nobody knows yet.
Anyway, Sessions properly removed himself from the investigation. Trump is outraged, because he wanted an attorney general that he could count on to make sure the investigation didn't do too much investigating.
So Trump is now publicly disparaging his own appointee for doing the right thing. He hasn't fired Sessions, which he could do. The thinking there seems to be that, even for Trump, the appearance of firing the guy for refusing to obstruct justice at Trump's request, would be too much.
Instead, Trump will just mock and insult Sessions until he quits in humiliation. (At this point, it is good to remember that Mrs. Trump's feel-good program as first lady was to fight internet bullying.)
Sessions says he's not going anywhere. It was said in a magnolia-scented, genteel manner, but the New York translation would be something unprintable here.
Sessions has taken a principled stand in favor of the independence of the Justice Department to investigate what needs to be investigated, free of Presidential interference.
Trump can't fire special counsel Mueller. Only the Attorney General (or in this case, because of Sessions' recusal, the assistant attorney general) can fire Mueller. So if Trump wants to get rid of Mueller, he needs to replace Sessions. And Sessions isn't going anywhere.
It's terribly confusing for liberals to watch. Suddenly Jeff Sessions, a meek and tiny man, has stood up to Trump and is doing the right thing for democracy. The too-racist-to-be-a-judge Jeff Sessions is becoming the unlikely hero of the left for protecting the independence of the Justice Department and the Russia investigation by refusing to quit and let Trump appoint a compliant toady in his place. My stars and garters, it's enough to give the Yankees a case of the fantods. I do declare. Heads at MSNBC are spinning.
Meanwhile, in an effort to appear even slightly relevant, the Democrats have rolled out a rebranding. They still can't believe they lost to Trump and have figured out that "I'm Hilary Clinton and I deserve to be President" probably wasn't the strongest set of ideas to run on. So they rolled out a new branding, a new set of principles that will be the foundation of the party going forward. They call it the "Better Deal." Not necessarily a good deal, but, meh, it's a little better.
The roll-out was just sad. Nancy Pelosi — 77 years old and fresh from her Botox treatment — and Chuck Schumer — 67 but not looking a day over 80 — decided to appeal to the young voters of the country with a slogan that harkens back a mere 84 years to Roosevelt's "New Deal," which was a play on Teddy Roosevelt's "Square Deal" from 1910. Because nothing will motivate a generation anticipating self-driving electric vehicles like a slogan rooted firmly in a time when the nation still moved by horseback.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.