Jeff Sessions wanted to quit, but kept going for one reason

Sessions was humiliated by Donald Trump after Bob Mueller was hired, but stayed on to do one thing

By Matthew Rozsa
September 15, 2017 1:03PM (UTC)
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(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, file)

A passionate anti-immigrant agenda is one of the main reasons Attorney General Jeff Sessions has continued to endure the indignities of working for President Donald Trump.

After being informed in May that a special counsel would be appointed to investigate alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Trump berated Sessions for recusing him from the investigation in an Oval Office meeting that included Vice President Mike Pence, White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II and a number of other aides, according to The New York Times. Sessions later described the dressing down as the most humiliating experience of his political career and agreed to Trump's demand that he submit a letter of resignation.


What stopped Trump from accepting Sessions' resignation, it seems, was Pence, former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former chief strategist Steve Bannon telling him that doing so would be politically catastrophic. Yet Sessions still could have resigned anyway.

His reason for not doing so? According to the Times:

Administration officials and some of Mr. Trump’s outside advisers have puzzled at Mr. Sessions’s decision to stay on. But people close to Mr. Sessions said that he did not leave because he had a chance to have an impact on what he sees as a defining issue of his career: curtailing legal and illegal immigration.

Sessions' anti-immigrant passion caused him to endure further humiliations from Trump. These included the president telling The New York Times on July 19 that he would not have appointed Sessions as attorney general if he had know he would recuse himself and later tweeting that Sessions was "weak."


It seemed that Sessions' gambit paid off when he announced earlier this month that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would be rescinded, meaning that the roughly 690,000 undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children would be eligible for deportation. As Sessions proclaimed in his press conference statement:

Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism . . . The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.

Sessions may have counted his chickens before they hatched. It was reported earlier this week that Trump was working on a deal with congressional Democrats to help DACA beneficiaries stay in the country in return for increased border security, while Trump himself countered Sessions' negative characterization of undocumented immigrants with a tweet on Thursday.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Daca Donald Trump Dreamers Illegal Immigration Immigration Jeff Sessions Undocumented Immigrants