The situation with the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, has reached a level of scandal and absurdity that a short time ago would have been unimaginable in that country. To begin with, Sessions, now confirmed as attorney general, met with the Russian ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak, in secret on two occasions when Sessions was part of the Donald Trump campaign team. This occurred just when the country was being rocked by the scandal involving the electronic interception of emails belonging to Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. It was subsequently revealed that Sessions lied to the Senate to hide those meetings.
Now, paradoxically, as attorney general this right-wing radical would have to lead the investigation into serious crimes that he himself allegedly committed: the meetings with a diplomatic representative of a country accused by Washington of launching a massive cyberattack on a wing of the country’s political system, as well as his false statement—given under oath—before the United States Senate.
Clearly, Sessions’ actions not only disqualify him from heading the inquiry into the alleged interference by Moscow in the recent U.S. election process, but his actions have also destroyed his personal credibility with the public and with the members of the political class, whether Republican or Democrat, in Washington. In any other political circumstances, the attorney general in a case like this would have had to resign immediately or be removed by his boss, the president.*
However, through the uncertain and bizarre start of the new administration, Trump has been trying to keep his disgraceful colleague on board. By doing this, the Republican magnate runs the risk of uniting the Congress and government bureaucracy, as well, of course, as the bulk of public opinion, in opposition to him.
Trump’s stubbornness on certain controversial topics remains an enigma. In the case of Sessions, however, it is clear that, after having had to sacrifice several of his colleagues who were shown to be unsuitable for the jobs he gave them, or tried to give them, or who in a matter of days came into conflict with the White House, the Republican president has decided to entrench himself, not in his strength, but in his weakness.
However, the logic of the balance of powers argues that the president from New York will not be able to keep his attorney general for long. Even less will he be able to divert the investigations of alleged Russian interference that would have tipped the electoral balance in his favor and to Clinton’s disadvantage. In the meantime, not only has Trump seriously damaged himself politically with his clumsy and unscrupulous maneuvering, he has in the process caused a deterioration in the institutional framework of Washington that can’t be hidden. We have to ask ourselves: how far, and for how long, will Democrats and Republicans be inclined to go along with this obvious project of destroying their institutions?
*Editor’s note: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on March 2 that he will recuse himself from investigations into matters related to Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential campaign.