Since “The Easter Bunny Cover-Up” in March, I have refrained from commenting on the ongoing ‘collusion scandal’ plaguing the Trump administration. Every day there is a new leak, or a new tweet, or more incessant commentary by earnest juvenile-sounding newsies on cable TV. But finally it has all reached a new level of excitement, with the President complaining to The New York Times (no less!) about his Attorney General’s early recusal from any campaign-related inquiries, and yesterday describing him as “beleaguered” on Twitter, occasioning all manner of fevered speculation whether someone’s about to get fired, or (in conservative circles) whether it’s all just misdirection from the White House, fighting confusion with confusion. Herewith, a little background, as I see it, and a draft of the speech Jeff Sessions should give, which will pour the whole tempest right out of the teapot.
[Note: The following was posted (minor changes since) in Responses to a PowerLine Blog post by by Scott Johnson, entitled “The Beleaguering of Jeff Sessions.” Writes Scott,
Trump’s public humiliation of his appointed Attorney General is unprecedented. It is unseemly. It is also unnecessary. . .
But maybe there’s a method behind the apparent madness: Could the President and his AG be working together to solve the problem, as I suggest?]
The position of Attorney General in the United States is ambivalent. On the one hand, the AG is an employee of the Administration and reports directly to the President. On the other hand the AG is expected to act independently of the President or anyone else when deciding what to investigate and whom to prosecute. The position is not provided for in the Constitution; it was created by Congress in the Judiciary Act of 1789, to advise the President and represent the United States before the Supreme Court. The Department of Justice itself was not created until the Grant administration (mainly to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan).
One could argue that the Founders might better have placed the administration of justice within the Judiciary branch of the government, but they left that up to Congress. As it is, the Attorney General as employee and potential handmaiden of the President (like Eric Holder for Obama) poses the risk of abuse: the office can be used to intimidate or even punish the President’s enemies (or to reward any miscreant friends by looking the other way).
For this reason Jeff Sessions, a careful Constitutionalist, to avoid giving even the appearance of bias, recused himself from any legal questions concerning the Trump campaign, of which he had been a supporter (though not an official). By doing so, he fell into a trap laid by Democrat loyalists who had trumpeted transparently fictitious allegations about ‘Russian collusion’ with the Trump campaign. Some of these Democrats were apparently high-level officials within the Intelligence and Justice departments of the Obama adminstration, who were able to impugn then-Senator Sessions and others associated with Donald Trump by feeding congressmen and the press tidbits about ‘meetings’ between Russians and Trump people. It was a campaign of leaks and innuendo raised to a fever pitch by the media and fanned by anonymous ‘officials’.
The result was a recommendation by Justice Department ‘ethics officials’ (who probably were in on the plot) that newly-confirmed AG Sessions recuse himself. Mr Sessions, ever mindful of his responsibilities, fell into the trap, which ultimately led to an open-ended ‘investigation’ by an aggressive Special Prosecutor, armed with what looks like an unlimited budget, no specific charter, and a growing coterie of assistant lawyers, all Democrats.
These developments have by all accounts frustrated President Trump beyond all measure. It is unclear whether Mr Trump appreciates the difficult position in which Mr Sessions found himself, compounded now by Mr Trump’s public expressions of pique. A less conscientious man in AG Sessions’s position would have just thrown in the towel and left. But I expect he realizes that his leaving would put the President at the mercy of the Democrats and the anti-Trump Republicans in the Senate, with no way to confirm a replacement. And, given the Democrat sympathizers in the Justice Department, it would be next to impossible to find anyone who could stop the Special Prosecutor train, unless Mr Trump does it himself, at huge political cost.
Attorney General Sessions has a way out for both himself and the President: He must go before the public and say this:
“I was misled by a campaign of misinformation, promulgated by the Democrats and their allies in the press, to believe there was something to the story of Russian meddling in the Presidential Election of 2016. I was surprised in my confirmation hearing by claims I had met with Russians, when those encounters were so insignificant that I had not remembered them. I was then advised by Justice Department officials that I should recuse myself from any investigations into the election campaign.
“I now realize that I innocently supposed all these recommendations were in good faith. They were not; they were ill-advised, whether maliciously or not I cannot say, but they were based on a fiction that has been foisted upon the American people by those who cannot or will not accept the results of the election, that there was some kind of nefarious ‘collusion’ between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. I am now quite certain that this is nothing but a dastardly invention, designed to create confusion and suspicion in the public.
“For this reason I am hereby rescinding my recusal, and I will now take charge of any and all Justice Department business regarding the Election of 2016. To begin with, I am informing Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller that his charter has been cancelled, and his job is at an end. I regret that he and the large team he has assembled were set on this wild goose chase, but there is no goose, and the taxpayers will be spared any further expense at chasing it. Mr Mueller may enjoy the rest of the summer free of the need to find a crime where there never was one.”