For Once In His Life, Jeff Sessions Was Right…

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Via Carrie Cordero for Lawfare

Whatever one might think of Jeff Sessions’ record as a U.S. Senator, policy priorities as Attorney General, peculiar recollections of his meetings with Russian government representatives as expressed during his recent congressional appearances, or role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, there is no denying this: in what will probably go down as the single most important decision of his professional life, he made the right call.

Sessions was right to recuse himself from the Department of Justice investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, now led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He had been a visible and reliable surrogate for Trump on the campaign, a senior member of the transition team, and, apparently, allowed himself to partake in meetings with Russian government officials that have proved hard for him to explain in a public setting in a meaningful way. But shortly after arriving at the Justice Department for duty, he solicited the advice of the Department’s ethics officials, and, as far as the public record reflects, took that advice. He recused.

The campaign of Donald Trump provided moments that previewed what would become the president’s assault on justice. We need not lay out the history of these statements here; they are on the public record and have been reported on extensively. His repeated calls for the criminal prosecution of his political opponent provided early warning of his views on how justice should be administered and by whom. He articulated a vision of political retribution and abusive prosecution. He said it; he meant it.

Since assuming office, he has continued this assault. He fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to defend in court an order she believed to be illegal (a judgment that, as the Acting Attorney General, was literally her job to make). He fired the FBI director for not subverting an ongoing law enforcement investigation that he wanted quashed. He has publicly gone after in verbal statements or tweets the deputy attorney general and the acting FBI director. And now, he has publicly chastised the attorney general for making a decision required by the department’s ethics rules.

Take note of who he is firing or pressuring to resign in his first six months in office—these are the senior government officials responsible for the equitable enforcement of our laws. The President is attacking the integrity of the leadership of the Department of Justice, the fair application of the law, and the pursuit of truth.

On my bookshelf at home, I have a yellowed copy of the 1996 book entitled Main Justice, by Jim McGee and Brian Duffy. I first read it before my first day of work in the Department 20 years ago, this month. It’s not an academic or legal book; it’s a colorful read of some notable cases and personalities that the Department’s modern history is made of. The authors describe the Justice Department as “…one of the few major institutions in society where individuals can make a profound difference in the problems facing the nation.” That much is true. I have a few awards from my thirteen years in the Department, but the one I treasure the most is the smallest in size—it is a wooden plaque a few inches wide that those of us who served in a small national security office after the 9/11 attacks were handed by our office leadership a few months later in a windowless conference room. In the ensuing challenging years, leaders of that office reminded the lawyers regularly that our client was not the agency we were doing work for, the department itself, or even the president; our client was the American public.

These are not sentiments that I expect Donald Trump will ever come to understand. But that does not mean that the rest of Washington, or the country, does not. The fair administration of justice does not just live in the halls of Main Justice, or in rules promulgated by the Attorney General, but in the Constitution and its bedrock requirements. We are a nation of laws, and those laws require honest people to enforce them. As Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote in All the Laws But One, “[i]n any civilized society the most important task is achieving the proper balance between freedom and order.” The Justice Department, and its leadership, do their work every day ensuring this balance is maintained. Allowing a president unencumbered by an appreciation for this role to dismantle the department’s independent leadership risks that this fundamental balance will not be honored when tested.

Attorney General Sessions should not resign; he should force the President to fire him.

Why? Because capitulation to this gross politicization of justice would make him unworthy of the office that he has the honor of holding.

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8 thoughts on “For Once In His Life, Jeff Sessions Was Right…

  1. “Whatever one might think of Jeff Sessions’ record as a U.S. Senator, policy priorities as Attorney General, peculiar recollections of his meetings with Russian government representatives as expressed during his recent congressional appearances, or role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, there is no denying this: in what will probably go down as the single most important decision of his professional life, he made the right call.” —->>> That’s 100% correct. Finally, for the first time in his life Jeff Sessions did the correct, appropriate, just, right, moral, dignified and respectful thing by agreeing to do nothing. Hooray for us.

    • I doubt he did it for the “right” reason but will accept with a smile that at least he did it. I don’t forgive him nor forget what a pompous racist jackass liar he is however! ….and some of the adjectives you applied I will not agree with but I will just ignore them. I also doubt it was his idea to stay – someone had to convince him! I also am enjoying the vocalized support he is getting from some of those Repubs because I am sure it is really pissing off trump! Now, I hope the little twerp has the guts to stand his ground!

      – Murphy

      • He did it for survival. He well knew what we are all finding out via the drip drip drip of the passage of time: That just like Trump, Trump, Jr., Kushner, Manafort, Flynn, Page (wait, Bannon has yet to be dragged into this), and others, he was an operative for the Russia/Trump Campaign operation, and that overseeing the Russia investigation would blow up his entire career. Yet, even with his recusal, he was still willing to lie his bigoted ass off in front of the Senate committee to save his skin. But just like Trump, whenever he does something or anything, he causes damage and destruction, and his not doing anything in this context by recusal, as far as the country is concerned, was and remains the correct, appropriate, just, right, moral, dignified and respectful thing he’s ever done in his lfe. Don’t look for a repeat performance, as he remains Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s first choice for AG, one of the worst public servants ever appointed to the job, although he and John Mitchell, Nixon’s AG, have much in common.

  2. well, we see trees……. trump said Tim Cook promised him 3 big plants. BIG PLANTS. Ok, maybe I have had too much coffee….. 🙂

    – Murph

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