With a Democratic House of Representatives, Donald Trump should be more careful! He’ll be under much closer observation, won’t he?
Barely finished with his authoritarian press conference, he dismissed his attorney general.
It’s true: One of the worst things (and it’s a long list) that Donald Trump has done was appointing Jeff Sessions as attorney general. However, firing him was even worse.
This is far worse than a conflict of personalities at play: It is the rule of law that is under attack. The very rule of law that American institutions have perfected for 200 years, with its powers and checks and balances that operate independently of one another.
A president can evidently appoint and dismiss whomever he wants as the head of national departments and agencies. But this is the second time that Trump has fired a key person in the justice department for lack of servility. In 2017, he dismissed FBI Director James Comey, who refused to guarantee his personal loyalty to Trump. The loyalty of the head of federal law enforcement is first and foremost to the Constitution and laws of the country.
We’ve known for a year that Sessions’ days were numbered for the same reasons.
When Robert Mueller’s independent investigation into Russian election interference began, Sessions immediately declared that he had a conflict of interest in supervising it. He had been involved in Trump’s campaign and could be called as a witness. There was nothing heroic in recusing himself. Any lawyer having read his code of ethics would have done the same thing. To do otherwise would have been unethical and, in fact, illegal.
These legal considerations are evidently of no importance to Trump. Once Sessions, who had been his ally from the very beginning, had removed himself from the Russia investigation, who was going to control Mueller? Neither the FBI director nor the attorney general.
Thus, for several months, we’ve witnessed this surreal succession of tweets where, day after day, the president of the United States has attacked Sessions.
Some elected Republicans defended Sessions at the time, saying that firing him would be unacceptable. They will naturally fall back in line like cowards, like they do every time.
Before Trump named him attorney general, Sessions already had a reputation of being one of the more horrible conservatives in American politics.
A lawyer in Alabama, he was nominated to serve as a judge by Ronald Reagan in 1986. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary, then dominated by Republicans, didn’t make any recommendation to the Senate on confirmation – an extremely rare event – after Sessions was suspected of racism on the basis of testimony by certain colleagues.
His nomination to lead a department of federal government attorneys didn’t foreshadow anything great. Nevertheless, he demonstrated his upright character by withdrawing from the Russia investigation.
Sessions’ “resignation at the request of the president” can be seen as an act of defiance and authority on the president’s part. It certainly looks that way. It is also a gesture of weakness and panic, which, coincidentally, occurred the same day we learned that Democrats would control the lower house. The president is sending the signal that he won’t let himself be pushed around.
Who will be next? Mueller himself? We can’t rule out anything. Perhaps Trump will put an end to the investigation by appointing a more malleable attorney general.* He won’t wait for the indictments to land on him, as the case may be.
Even yesterday, during a press conference, he described the Mueller investigation as a hoax and a fraud. We’re used to it, he’s said it a thousand times, but we shouldn’t be.
When the world’s most powerful head of state ridicules judicial institutions, he severely weakens them. It’s a message that resonates throughout the world; it’s inescapable.
What is the message? In the country that created the first constitution that formally sanctioned the separation of powers, the head of state doesn’t believe in it. He doesn’t believe in it so much that he believes he has the power to “pardon” himself in case of conviction.
That’s what kings thought, during a time when they were told that the king can do no wrong.
Meanwhile, we’re being told that Americans had massive voter turnout on Tuesday!
In comparison to 83 million in 2014, 114 million people voted on Tuesday. It went from 37 percent to barely 50 percent. But this is still just half of American adults. They’ll tell us that, for a nonpresidential election, this is very good. It’s mediocre. It’s a sign that tens of millions of people truly don’t give a damn, or that they aren’t too disturbed by King Donald.
It’s their choice, in the end.
*Editor’s note: On Dec. 7, Trump nominated William Barr for the position of U.S. attorney general.