There was a time not long ago when Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions were best of buds. Well, not friends in the normal meaning of the word, but about as close as two such public figures can be. Trump and Sessions shared views on immigration, criminal justice, taxes, and military spending. Sessions even loaned one of his’ senior aides (a guy named Stephen Miller) to the Trump campaign at a time when his freewheeling operation was in desperate need of staffing.
When the four-term U.S. Senator from Alabama announced to a crowd of Trump supporters on February 28, 2016 that he would be endorsing the uncensored billionaire for president, you got the sense that it wasn’t a hard decision for Sessions to make. Trump, a man not used to giving compliments to other people, hailed his favourite senator as if he were an endangered species in a swampy Washington, D.C. Trump called him “a great man” who was “greatly respected” and an “expert” on catching and deporting illegals. Weeks later, Trump even pontificated about making Sessions his running mate.
How things have changed.
Jeff Sessions is still the tough-guy, law-and-order, anti-immigration renegade Donald Trump loves to see in his cabinet members. But now, in Trump’s eyes, that’s about all the Attorney General has going for him.
The decision by Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation has killed whatever relationship the two men had. Trump hasn’t forgiven Sessions for the act of betrayal, carping openly on Twitter and to reporters that he should have picked another person for the job. Trump, like lots of rich men, enjoys having someone on the naughty step. For a long time now, that someone has been Sessions.
As the New York Times reported this week, the only time Trump and Sessions really talk to one other is during cabinet meetings – in other words, when it’s unavoidable.
It doesn’t take a doctorate in Trump Studies to know why the president can’t stand his Attorney General. Trump prizes absolute, unqualified loyalty from everyone who is privileged to walk in his good graces. He is the King, the White House is his kingdom, and White House cabinet officers and staffers are knights and jokers who are there to protect and serve him. Trump grew into this mentality in New York and he took it with him to Washington, a town full of serpents and swamp creatures circling the White House moat.
As the head of the Justice Department and the chief law enforcement officer in the country, Sessions was supposed to be the guy with the spear and the net, catching the snakes slithering into the White House. The Russia probe was the deadliest snake of them all, one that could squeeze the life out of Trump’s presidency. By removing himself from the supervising the inquiry, Sessions practically opened up the door and welcomed the anaconda into the Oval Office.
That is Trump’s version, anyway. The real story is that Sessions really had no choice but to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation due to his involvement in the very campaign that the FBI was looking at. And as much as the president would like to blame his AG for the legal mess he is in, there would not be a special counsel issuing indictments and questioning Trump’s business and political associates today if Trump himself had an ounce of self-control. But he doesn’t; the president wanted to send James Comey packing, a firing which spurred the appointment of Robert Mueller. It is Donald Trump and Donald Trump alone who created his situation.
Unfortunately for Jeff Sessions, this isn’t much relief. He is still an employee who goes to work everyday having to absorb abuse from his boss. With friends like these, one wonders if he ever regrets being the first Republican senator to throw his political capital behind Donald Trump.