Washington watch: Exit sessions

After a week of escalating and bitter attacks on his attorney general, it appears increasingly likely US President Donald Trump will finally dump Jeff Sessions, possibly right after the midterm elections. The intensifying battle reflects a president with little interest in the rule of law, and an overarching interest in protecting himself in the face of tidal waves of corruption, foreign interference in our elections and controversy over his implied support for racist, Islamophobic and antisemitic conspiracy mongers.

One Hill veteran said Sessions’s job is secure, despite all of Trump’s rantings, ravings and threats. That’s because, in this source’s view, “Sessions has access to all the FBI and intelligence files on Trump going back to his days with the mob and Roy Cohn. Is the real reason Jeff has been untouchable the same reason J. Edgar Hoover was?”

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But senators who once spoke of the need to protect their former colleague from Alabama, are now saying Sessions’ days at Justice may be numbered. Most notable is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-NC), Trump’s new BFF and golf buddy. After staunchly defending Session — “all hell would break loose” if he were fired, the senator once said — Graham reversed himself this week, saying it’s about time to look for a new AG because Sessions’ firing was “very likely” and soon.

That could also be a lot of wishful thinking, because Graham himself is said to badly want the job. He ran against Trump in the 2016 primaries and announced he’d never vote for the reality TV performer, but they’ve reconciled. Graham, once the protégé of Trump’s nemesis, Sen. John McCain, who died last week, has flipped on the question of saving Sessions and embraced Trump. A former USAF JAG colonel, Graham has the added advantage of being the most likely of all candidates to win Senate confirmation.

Who else? There are a lot of candidates and Trump has made it clear there is one prevailing qualification for the job: loyalty to him personally. Not to the rule of law, not to the nation, not to the Constitution. But to Donald John Trump himself.

You can scratch Michael Cohen’s name from the list of candidates.

 Lost in the fog of war between Trump and his attorney general over the Russia investigation is that Sessions is pursuing the rest of Trump’s agenda with zeal – immigration, voting rights, race, religious liberty, gay rights, and nearly everything else except arresting Hillary or any of Trump’s growing list of enemies. What this president wants is another Roy Cohn, the Joe McCarthy hatchet man and protégé who became Trump’s mentor and lawyer.

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 Sessions, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence created this fiction called Religious Liberty Task Force to justify discrimination against LGBT Americans and fight same-sex marriage, gay rights, birth control and abortion in the name of religious freedom. It is an easy step from there to sanctioning discrimination against racial, ethnic and religious minorities as a matter of observing one’s religious beliefs.

 Although Trump believes in nothing but what is best for him, his attorney general is a true ideologue. Sessions has spearheaded the administration’s campaign to tear down the First Amendment’s wall of separation between church and state, its protections for free speech, free press and other rights.
Together they have done more than any administration to undermine the rule of law – and unless a Democratic victory in November midterm elections provides at least a modicum of resistance, the damage they have caused is only the beginning.

We are a nation of immigrants, so it is alarming when xenophobes, racists and bigots want to cleanse America of those who don’t meet their racial, religious and ethnic preferences. Yet that is what is happening in Trump’s America, where children have been taken from their parents at the borders and put in wire cages and camps. To justify that separation policy, Sessions cited a Bible passage used throughout his native South to justify slavery and segregation – and by the Nazis to demand obedience to the Third Reich.
Our democratic values demand that the Senate ensure that any replacement for Sessions demonstrate loyalty to the Constitution and the rule of law, not to the person of the president. They must also demand that any nominee promise not to fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller and close down his investigation.

That will be a big problem for Trump and it’s far from clear whether a GOP congressional leadership that seems to have sworn an oath of loyalty to him and not to the Constitution will fulfill their responsibilities at this critical time.

The man who salivated over the job after the 2016 election may be high on the list of hopefuls to replace Sessions: Rudy Giuliani. Despite his call carry out Trump’s campaign vow to send Hillary Clinton to prison, he was passed over. His unhinged performance as Trump’s personal lawyer should disqualify him in 2019.
Another 2016 reject still hoping for lightning to strike is former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who, like Giuliani, is a former US attorney. He was reportedly blackballed by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, because he sent Kushner’s father to the federal prison.

Joe DiGenova, a former federal prosecutor, is another possibility. He told Trump whisperer Sean Hannity last week that Trump needs someone to name a special counsel to re-open Clinton’s email case and “investigate the conduct of the people at senior levels” of the Justice Department.

Retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), who spent fruitless years investigating Clinton and Benghazi, sounds like Trump’s kind of guy. He’s leaving the House of Representatives because he wants to return to the justice system. He’s had no trouble vindicating Trump’s claims of “no collusion” with Russia.
Trump set the agenda for his next AG in a pair of almost incomprehensible Friday morning tweets:
 “… look into all of the corruption on the “other side” including deleted Emails, Comey lies & leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr……

….FISA abuse, Christopher Steele & his phony and corrupt Dossier, the Clinton Foundation, illegal surveillance of Trump Campaign, Russian collusion by Dems – and so much more. Open up the papers & documents without redaction?

In other words, stop investigating me because “I did nothing wrong,” and go after my enemies.

A competent Justice Department led by an attorney general fully committed to the rule of law is critical for the survival of our democracy and a critical protection for every minority. Trump has made it clear that loyalty to him is more important, and that represents a clear and present danger to the nation.

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