Attorney General Jeff Sessions is so committed to his draconian white nationalist agenda that he's willing to allow the president of the United States to repeatedly humiliate, denigrate and demean him in public rather than resign. And the president who made his name growling "You're fired" every week on his reality TV show is reported to be unable to personally fire anyone in real life, so he's instead displaying what MSNBC's Chris Hayes has called "titanic levels of passive-aggressiveness" with his constant expressions of "disappointment" in his attorney general.
Donald Trump has always been a big fan of torture and according to Politico, that's part of the fun for him here:
"He wants to fire him but he doesn't want the confrontation," said one adviser who frequently speaks to him. "He doesn't mind the long negative storyline. He will torture him every single day."
This person said Trump also wants to see how Sessions will respond to humiliation and has mocked his response so far.
It's embarrassing to watch at this point. This administration is a bad soap opera on a good day, and these two are the rival divas of the moment. But the drama obscures the serious issue that lies at the heat of this dispute. Our president is abusing the powers of his office to try to stop an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential campaign and his own possible complicity in the crime.
It's not necessary to go over all the weirdness of Trump's strange affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin again. This has been well documented, and nobody has yet fully explained his motives in any persuasive way. Considering all the evidence of Russian government meddling and the contacts with members of his campaign, investigations are necessary. That Trump cannot seem to grasp this and is so determined to shut down any inquiry only raises the suspicions even higher.
Trump seems to be ordering Sessions to go after Hillary Clinton and James Comey, which is highly inappropriate in itself. Over the weekend, he sent this series of tweets:
Suggesting that the attorney general go after his defeated rival and the former FBI director and start hunting for leakers among their own ranks is bound to blow back on him. On top of his swipes at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Trump seems to be determined to antagonize the entire Department of Justice and the intelligence community for reasons that are both self-serving and self-destructive.
Trump has been complaining bitterly about people he perceives as disloyal to him; he disparaged Sessions' early endorsement of his campaign in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, suggesting that it was to Sessions' advantage, not his own. At a news conference on Tuesday with the prime minister of Lebanon, the president refused to say that he wouldn't fire Sessions, saying, "Time will tell, time will tell ..."
Trump is obviously upset by the revelations about Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner taking that meeting with the Russian lawyer and has reportedly told confidantes that he's worried about special counsel Robert Mueller getting ahold of his tax returns. Clearly, he is also panicked by the fact that the Russia investigation is now turning to look at his family's finances. Trump told the New York Times that he considers this a "violation," as if he were unaware until now that law enforcement always follows the facts wherever they lead. This realization that his finances will be scrutinized seems to have unhinged him even more than usual. Believing that he could run for president without serious legal exposure, as may very well be the case, was the craziest thing he's done -- and that's saying something.
Trump certainly has no understanding of the role the attorney general plays in our system and the requirement that he be independent from exactly this sort of interference. The irony is that during Sessions' Senate career on the Judiciary Committee he was specifically known for his insistence that officials in the Department of Justice be completely independent of the executive branch, often haranguing nominees on the subject during confirmation hearings. (He memorably did that here to former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates -- later fired by Trump for being too independent.)
Most experts speculate that the president believes that driving Sessions from office will allow him to appoint a new A.G. who won't need to recuse himself or herself from the Russia probe and can then keep a tight leash on the Mueller investigation, or even end it. For a variety of reasons, that's unlikely. And in the process, Trump is blowing himself up.
We've wondered for months what it might take for the president to lose his base of support, and treating a far-right loyalist like Jeff Sessions as his personal doormat might just be it. The right-wing media, starting with Breitbart News, is very unhappy about this. They have reminded their readers that it was Trump who backed away from their religious crusade to put Hillary Clinton in jail. (The congressional committees are following their president's orders and getting ready to "investigate" Clinton again, so that should appease them a bit.)
Rush Limbaugh said that while he agrees there was no reason for Sessions to recuse himself, he's a by-the-book legal mind and it's "a little bit discomforting, unseemly for Trump to go after such a loyal supporter this way. Especially when Sessions made it obvious he's not gonna resign." The Drudge Report's banner headline read "Civil War" on Tuesday morning.
Right-wing media is not Trump's only problem. Republican senators are speaking out as well:
Members of the Cabinet are also starting to freak out. Erick Erickson reported that he spoke with one Cabinet member who said: “If he can get treated that way, what about the rest of us? ... It’s more of a clusterf**k than you even know." This Cabinet member confirmed that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is seriously considering quitting and said that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is also bothered by Trump's behavior.
Despite his hiring of a new communications director, the president seems to be hurtling more and more out of control, and it's finally starting to penetrate the right-wing bubble. So far they seem to be most concerned about the mistreatment of one of Trump's most loyal soldiers. It hasn't quite sunk in yet that this also demonstrates how little Trump really cares about their agenda.
Sessions is the most effective member of the Trump administration, working day and night to take the nation back to the '50s -- the 1850s. Donald Trump could not care less.
Trump only cares about Trump. It's amazing it's taken them this long to see that.