This article originally appeared on my Newsmax column.
The strained relationship between President Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions hit another boiling point last week. In a furious tweet, Trump publicly denounced Sessions’ decision not to unleash the power of the Justice Department on the president’s enemies, calling the attorney general "Disgraceful!"
While Sessions has traditionally remained silent on such criticism, he stood his ground in the midst of Trump’s latest tirade responding, "As long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution."
Sessions should be applauded for standing up to his boss, who in this case acts more like a 71-year-old child rather than the leader of the free world. In fact, one must go back to some of the Founders to find a sitting president launching a public attack against members of his own cabinet. Perhaps most notably, John Adams was known for a fuming temper, one often wielding its head against members of his own party — such as his Secretary of War James McHenry and former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.
Consequently, Adams’ quickness to burn his bridges cost him a second term — a fair warning for any attempt by Trump to start a cabinet war in Washington, D.C.
However, Jeff Sessions’ stand reflects much more than the consequences of childish inter-office bickering; it’s a stand for the sovereignty of American constitutional law. The U.S. Constitution gives the president the sole power to pick the members of his cabinet, and there is a long-standing adage that cabinet members "serve at the pleasure of the president." However, the Framers also ensured that the people had an ability to check the president’s appointment power and instilled Congress with the duty of confirming the president’s appointees. Thus, the president chooses his cabinet, and the people — through their duly elected representatives — approve them.
In the political world, this process is known as the concept of checks and balances. It is an integral aspect of the Framers’ vision of a constitutional republic. It also puts cabinet officials in the sometimes unfortunate position of serving as an extension of the president, while acting on behalf of the people.
In Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ case, Trump has repeatedly given him the choice to follow the law that he has sworn to protect or cave to the political pressures of his hot-tempered boss. If the U.S. attorney general — the chief law enforcer — becomes merely a pawn of the president, we become a nation ruled by the passions of men rather than the timelessness of law. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has its first loyalty to the rule of law and we must never politicize prosecutions. By doing so, we chip away at the things and ideals separating our country from places like Venezuela and Russia.
It is this timelessness that has allowed the U.S. to peacefully transition power to different figures and parties for over 200 years — without conflict.
Sessions has received some support from his colleagues in the legislature but many elected leaders in my state of Alabama have failed to defend the good name of their friend of 20 years!
Some have told me that they can’t defend sessions because if they say anything against Trump it may hurt them in the primary and to them I say you don’t deserve to lead anyone.
If elected leaders aren’t willing to even stand up for their friend of two decades, whom they know personally, then who are they willing to stand up for? These officials not only know Sessions publicly but they know his family as well; their children know one another.
Sessions has reached out to them when their family was dealing with tragedy, and they fought for conservative principles together for years. Everyone in my state who knows Sessions doesn’t question him at all. They realize if he is doing something that Trump doesn’t like its only because Sessions will always try and do the right thing no matter what the cost. I am so proud of him for being a man of character. Sadly, a large portion of the Republican party has aligned with the Always-Trumpers, claiming that the attorney general’s sole duty is to do what the president commands — regardless of legality.
In our polarized culture, it seems that we have forgotten that humans are not infallible. Even ones with whom we agree with the most have their faults.
It's not treason or betrayal to push back when members of our own party do something wrong. There is no need to make excuses when our leaders let their egos blind them to reality. Instead, we should encourage them to do better.
After all, even the president serves at the pleasure of the people.
This is not all to say that Jefferson Sessions does not have his faults. He does, and I have openly disagreed with him. Yet even in disagreement he has always listened to my concerns and made a thoughtful argument for his viewpoint. I love that about the man.
Sessions had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation because there are clear rules which govern this. Sessions even said during confirmation process he would recuse himself. So, Trump knew this, but somehow he blames Sessions? Trump has repeatedly asked his attorney general to defy the law his office is designed to uphold, and Sessions has repeatedly responded with respect — even to the point of submitting his resignation. However, our current attorney general — and the American people — must now show Trump that he is not king; that no one is above the law.
In closing, I don’t advocate we support the Democrats as a way to push-back in 2018, as we shouldn’t vote for people whose vision we fundamentally oppose.
However, if the voters don’t know what we stand for and see us putting any elected member of our party over our principles then we will ensure our defeat in 2018.
Let us praise our president for the things he does well, critiquing him when he goes against our conservative beliefs. We cannot continue to excuse anything he says or does and continue to beleive that we will not be a minority party in 2018. Let’s be fair and reasonable. This way we will win the argument, and the voters will support us in 2018.
Note: Special thanks to Daniel Bruce, a member of my firm, who helped write, research, and edit this piece. Daniel is a political science and economics student at Auburn University and is a regular contributor to Rouser News. He plans to attend law school when he graduates.