By now there are a lot of Americans who regret their past support of President Donald Trump, but few are more regretful than former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He once enjoyed a lifelong sinecure as a Senator from Alabama, where he was well-liked, but ever since he became the first Senator to endorse Trump’s 2016 candidacy he’s had nothing but trouble. By Tuesday night, he was out of public life completely and probably forever.
Trump rewarded Sessions by making him Attorney General, arguably a more prestigious gig than the United States Senate, but that quickly became a problem. The intelligence agencies had concluded that the Russian government had meddling in various ways in America’s presidential election, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had reasons to believe the Trump campaign, so an investigation was launched. Because Sessions had served on the campaign being investigated, and had already perjured himself in in his confirmation hearings by saying he had no contact with any Russians during the campaign, he acted according to legal ethics and recused him from the matter.
Trump has never forgiven Sessions for doing the right thing. After Session’s recusal the matter was turned over to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special investigator, which turned out to be an annoyance to Trump. Even as Sessions continued to pursue White House policies as Attorney General, Trump constantly berated him in “tweets” and public statements, and continued to do so after Sessions relented to the pressure and offered his resignation. Trump continued to criticize Sen. John McCain even after McCain’s death, so he’s not one to let a feud end for any reason.
After Sessions resigned his Senate seat to join the administration there was a special election held to find a successor, and because the Republicans nominated a very credibly accused ephebophile and over-the-top theocrat a Democrat actually won the general election. The Democrat is up for reelection this and considered quite vulnerable, so Sessions joined a crowded primary field to get his old job back. Despite Trump’s opposition Sessions wound up in a run-off against former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who has no previous political experience but had won a lot of games on the gridiron, which plays well in Alabama. Trump enthusiastically endorsed Tuberville and continued to lambaste Sessions, and although Sessions used to routinely win election in Alabama by landslides the state is now more loyal to New York City scam artist.
Tuberville won the nomination Tuesday by a landslide, and the political handicappers are saying the state “leans Republican” in the general election. Sessions was once beloved in Alabama for his principled conservatism, but because he was too principled to help Trump out of a jam his career there is now over. He’s old an entitled to a generous pension from his years of public service, but we’re sure Sessions regrets giving up that cushy lifetime sinecure in the Senate by aligning himself with Trump.
Sessions is not the only one to see his reputation tarnished because of an association with Trump. John Kelly and James Mattis and H.R. McMaster were all high-ranking military brass respected by both parties when they became Trump’s Chief of Staff, Defense Secretary and national security advisor, respectively, but all were defenestrated for the habit of giving advice Trump didn’t want hear, and he continues to insult them all. Former multinational oil executive Rex Tillerson was Trump’s first Secretary of State, but since he was forced to resign Trump has described as “dumb as a rock.” The other administration officials Trump once claimed were “the best people” but now denigrates is too long to recount here.
With the possible exception of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who briefly served as Trump’s ambassador the United Nations and has continued to speak on Trump’s behalf, it’s hard to think of anyone who’s served in the administration who left with a reputation intact. Those who remain in the administration will eventually see their careers ending with Trump’s. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could have remained in his safe congressional seat in Kansas’ Fourth District and would easily be nominated for the Senate and most likely win a lifetime sinecure, and perhaps parlayed that into the presidency, but he should probably forget about that lifelong ambition.
There are plenty of arguments to be made against Sessions, but his principled recusal from the Russia investigation. As Sessions surely realizes by now, his greatest lapse of judgment was tying his fortunes to Trump.
— Bud Norman