Of all the officials in the Trump cabinet, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has arguably garnered the most attention. From the drama of his confirmation hearings to several Sessions parodies on "Saturday Night Live" (SNL), the attorney general has certainly been in the public eye since his nomination. Most recently, attention turned back once again to his recusal from the Russia investigation.
Though it’s been months since Sessions recused himself from the probe, two weeks ago The New York Times published an article alleging that last March, President Trump ordered White House counsel to convince Sessions to remain as part of the investigation.
Some pundits have speculated that this action suggests Trump wanted Sessions to protect him, and wanted to ensure that a close cohort maintained control over the probe.
The current relationship between Sessions and Trump is lukewarm. Some report it has only slightly improved. At a recent press conference, Trump told reporters that he did stand with Sessions. But, in the past, Trump referred to Sessions as "beleaguered," and Newsweek reported that Trump was more frustrated with Sessions than with Mueller and the leaders of the Russia investigation. It appears that the president has not gotten over what he seemed to perceive as the disloyalty of Sessions’ recusal.
Despite Trump stating that The New York Times story is off base, and that anything he may have told White House counsel was "proper," it’s clear that he has retained a dislike for Sessions since the recusal incident.
This dislike is not warranted — by recusing himself. Sessions did the right and judicial thing. Jeff Sessions is a capable attorney general and a valuable member of the Cabinet, and a loyal friend to Trump.
Democrats called loudly for Sessions’ recusal, premeditatively accusing him of unethical behavior. What they didn’t know is that Sessions had already recused himself — completely on his own.
Commentators would say that Sessions did this because he knew Trump had something to hide, and that this speculation is perhaps why Trump feels that Sessions betrayed him. But the real reason Sessions recused himself was because it’s the law and he respects the rule of law.
In response to media questions about his recusal, Sessions cited a statute that states a Justice Department employee shall not participate in a "criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with . . . an elected official, a candidate (whether or not successful) for elective, public office, a political party, or a campaign organization." Sessions was a top official in the Trump campaign. His recusal was not betrayal, it was being a loyal servant to the law, as the bar and his oath of office require.
Rather than revealing guilt, Sessions recusing himself shows that he is a man of integrity. Sessions continues to try and prove himself to a president that hasn’t shown him the same loyalty he has been shown.
The Washington Post reported that Sessions has been attempting to win back Trump’s approval, asking White House aides to sing his praises to the President. Sessions is no doubt one of the most active attorney generals. He has made significant strides in advancing President Trump's agenda. For conservatives on the right, Sessions is a strong member of the administration. Sessions is willing to take a lot of abuse from the president, while remaining committed to serving him. This is a trait that Trump should not take for granted.
So far, any attempt to get back in Trump’s good graces have been minimal. Trump rarely calls in Sessions for meetings, and speculation continues that this attorney general may soon lose his job. Though these rumors may have no basis in fact, it’s worth thinking about what Trump would lose if he did fire Sessions.
Asking for Sessions’ resignation would only make the situation worse for the Trump. It could make him look guilty, much like when he fired James B. Comey in May. Beyond the Russia investigation, however, it would be a loss of a humble and graceful servant. Sessions is extremely valuable to the Trump administration, as both a conduit of Trump’s policies and an example of strong conservative leadership.
Sessions has shown himself to choose the right thing over something politically expedient. He has refrained from exchanging harsh words with Trump or getting wrapped up in their feud. In addition, he has remained committed to tangible administrative change.
The president should try to emulate Sessions’ values rather than ignore them. He should see that staying focused on policy is actually a path he should follow. Avoiding drama and admitting his own mistakes is also something he should consider. I have known the attorney general for years now. In every conversation I have had with him he has blessed my life. Several times we were at political events with much more important people than me, but he cared enough about a young conservative to speak to me --- as is true with all young conservatives.
Even if I had a difference of opinion, he thoughtfully and graciously expressed his views. Beyond having strong character, he has one of the best legal minds of our generation. his entire family is also wonderful. I am thankful that a man of Sessions’ character is serving our country.
Special thanks to Katherine Pickle, my law clerk who attends Emory School of Law, and Daniel Bruce, my chief consultant and contributor to Rouser News, for their help researching, editing, and writing this article.
This article first appeared in my column on Newsmax.
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.