Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who at long last turned in his resignation Wednesday after it was justifiably requested by President Trump – did more damage to the Trump presidency and to the nation than any public official in modern history. He clearly deserved to be fired long ago.
As I wrote in a column last month calling for his firing, Sessions was the personification of misfeasance or nonfeasance. His actions, or lack thereof, were born of incompetence. He rarely exhibited the kind of leadership skills that are demanded of the nation’s leading law enforcement official.
More often than not, Sessions was missing in action. As President Trump quite accurately remarked in a recent interview, “I don’t have an attorney general.” This is the reason Sessions was finally, if belatedly, shown the door. America and the president of the United States both deserve to have a functioning Justice Department and a competent attorney general.
There are many well-documented examples of Sessions’ ineffectiveness and incompetence.
The now-former attorney general ignored pleas from members of Congress to reopen the Hillary Clinton email investigation, including the former secretary of state’s destruction of documents under congressional subpoena.
Incredibly, Sessions refused to present compelling evidence of possible criminality by Clinton to a federal grand jury. And he never initiated an investigation into Clinton’s role in paying for Russian information that was then fed to the FBI for the sole purpose of damaging her political opponent, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
When evidence emerged that top officials at the FBI abused their positions of power to launch an investigation of Trump-Russia “collusion” without probable cause or an “articulable factual basis” – as required under FBI guidelines – Sessions failed to take aggressive action against those officials who may well have violated the law with impunity.
Sessions should have ordered that a grand jury examine the conduct of fired FBI Director James Comey – along with the conduct of disgraced FBI and Justice Department officials Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr and others – to see if their highly questionable actions on the Clinton email scandal and other matters rose to the level of criminal conduct.
When it was learned that officials at the FBI and Justice Department concealed vital information and allegedly deceived judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in order to gain a warrant to wiretap a Trump campaign associate, Sessions did absolutely nothing about it. Instead, he obstructed lawful subpoenas issued by Congress, hiding evidence and covering up suspected wrongdoing.
Sessions’ committed multiple mistakes that led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate baseless and absurd charges that the Trump campaign and Russia worked together to elect Trump.
Sessions mistakes are too numerous to list here, but I have documented them in detail in my best-selling book “The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump.”
At the outset, the attorney general wrongfully disqualified himself from any involvement in the Mueller probe, citing a federal regulation that had no relevance or application. Recusal pertains to criminal cases – not to counterintelligence probes, which is what the Russia inquiry was when Sessions recused himself. Inexplicably, Sessions misunderstood the regulations.
When he testified before Congress, Sessions admitted he set his recusal in motion on his first day in office. He never advised President Trump of his intentions, betraying the president’s trust and poisoning their relationship from the outset. If not for Sessions’ deceit, it is unlikely that a special counsel would have ever been appointed.
Instead, Sessions’ replacement in overseeing the Russia case, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, took it upon himself to appoint Robert Mueller to preside over the probe. This played neatly into the scheme admittedly devised by Comey, who just happened to be Mueller’s close friend and long-time professional ally.
The appointment of Mueller was illegitimate. It should have never happened.
First, there must be a conflict of interest for a special counsel to be appointed. But since Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation, no conflict of interest existed.
Second, a suspected crime must be identified in the order appointing a special counsel. Yet, no crime was ever stated. In defiance of the law, the Muller probe turned into an investigation in search of a crime – looking for something – anything – to justify its existence.
The blame for this costly mess that has distracted our entire nation and taken up the time of Trump administration officials from their work on behalf of the American people rests squarely on Sessions’ shoulders.
As I noted in my book, President Trump – or any president, for that matter – deserves an attorney general who is forthright about his intentions, not someone who concealed his plan to step aside from a major investigation that would surely impact the new administration.
Sessions’ deception also deprived him of Trump’s confidence and trust, which are essential to the job of attorney general. This ethical impropriety rendered Sessions unfit to serve.
It was no secret that Sessions would be fired after the midterm elections. President Trump had frequently expressed his impatience, disgust and frustration with his incompetent attorney general.
Yet, like Captain Renault in the classic film “Casablanca,” many in the media feigned shock at the announcement. Immediately, their hysterical overreaction took root.
Some claimed with certainty that this was an effort by Trump to obstruct the Mueller investigation because they contended that newly named Acting Attorney General, Matthew G. Whitaker –Sessions’ chief of staff – would supplant Rosenstein in overseeing the probe.
No one bothered to mention that Rosenstein needs to be replaced in that role because of his own disqualifying conflict of interest. He is a key witness in the very case over which he presides, in violation of both federal regulations and the Code of Professional Responsibility.
The outrage among the anti-Trump media was deafening Wednesday when Sessions’ dismissal was announced. They seemed oblivious to the fact that Cabinet changes following an election are not uncommon historically.
When President Richard Nixon was re-elected in 1972, he asked for and received the resignations of all members of his Cabinet, although he ended up retaining quite a few of them.
In 1979, all members of President Jimmy Carter’s White House staff and Cabinet secretaries tendered their resignations as part of a reshaping of the Carter administration before the 1980 presidential election. In all, Carter fired four Cabinet secretaries.
In fact, from 1945 until President Trump was inaugurated, 19 Cabinet secretaries were sacked by presidents.
Of course, it is always newsworthy when the head of a federal department is terminated. But the media’s unhinged reaction on Wednesday that nefarious designs are afoot is yet another example of Trump Derangement Syndrome – the irrational and paranoid reaction to everything President Trump does.
The anti-Trump media’s visceral hatred and abiding contempt directed against the president are so acute that these feelings impair all reasoned judgment. They no longer pretend to be fair, objective or neutral. They assume the worst and often ignore the obvious.
It was obvious that Sessions deserved to be fired long ago. Indeed, in a column I wrote 14 months ago headlined “Sessions should resign, but not before taking action against Clinton, Comey and Rice,” I recounted all of the attorney general’s failures of deed and character. I urged him to resign so as to restore some semblance of integrity to the Department of Justice. Had he left then, the damage he has wrought since would have been minimized.
It will take time and strong leadership for the Justice Department to regain the credibility it has squandered under Sessions’ notorious reign.
President Trump should be commended for taking action to right the ship. Whomever he nominates for the permanent position of attorney general will be challenged to repair the considerable damage Sessions has left in his wake.
Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, would be an excellent choice to replace Sessions. A leading member of the House Judiciary Committee, he is a former U.S. attorney who also served as chief of anti-terrorism and national security for the Eastern District of Texas in the Department of Justice.
Ratcliffe is well acquainted with the suspected corruption at the FBI and Justice Department. He would end the persistent cover-ups and would work assiduously to uphold the rule of law, while holding accountable those who broke it.