Trump versus US Attorney General

Donald Trump has again ignored the principle preserving judicial and prosecutorial independence with another attack on the US Attorney General. Jeff Sessions, who had been a strong support of Trump for the presidency, hit back in his defence.

Howard Kurtz at Fox News: Trump’s tweet on ‘disgraceful’ DOJ puts Jeff Sessions in a bind

That last word is just remarkable.

As an old Justice reporter, let me pose this question:

How credible would it be if Sessions, a big Senate supporter and surrogate of the Trump campaign, who’s recused himself from the Russia probe, was overseeing an investigation of how the Obama DOJ handled a surveillance request against a Trump adviser who had contacts with Russia?

That’s why you have an independent inspector general.

Is Trump trying to embarrass Sessions into quitting? He’s not a big fan of Rod Rosenstein, who would become acting AG, and the No. 3, Rachel Brand, recently quit. The battle for the Senate to confirm a new DOJ chief would be a drawn-out spectacle.

For the moment, the president has left his attorney general little choice but to defend his department.

Reuters: Trump flays Sessions for ‘disgraceful’ decision, sparking new clash

It is a disgraceful decision by Trump to spark a clash with the AG.

Long-simmering tensions between U.S. President Donald Trump and his attorney general erupted anew on Wednesday after Trump lambasted Jeff Sessions’ decision on a surveillance abuse investigation as “DISGRACEFUL.”

Sessions, one of Trump’s earliest supporters in his 2016 presidential campaign, responded to the public rebuke with an uncharacteristically terse statement in which he pledged “to discharge my duties with integrity and honor.”

The latest fracas began with Trump flaying Sessions for having Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz – not prosecutors – examine how the agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained a warrant to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.

“Why is A.G. Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate massive FISA abuse,” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which regulates government monitoring of the communications of suspected foreign agents.

“Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey, etc.,” Trump continued. “Isn’t the IG an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

Horowitz was sworn into his post in 2012, during the Obama administration, after serving on a sentencing policy commission to which he was nominated by Republican President George W. Bush.

Trump’s tweet appeared to reveal a lack of understanding of the function of Horowitz’s office, which serves as an independent watchdog that investigates misconduct in the Justice Department and can refer wrongdoing to prosecutors.

Many of Trump’s tweets reveal a lack of understanding of many things.

In his statement, Sessions called the referral to Horowitz “the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary.”

“As long as I am the attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution,” he said.

Sessions’ statement was his strongest defense against repeated attacks from Trump.

Republican politicians have backed Sessions.

“Not to incur the president’s wrath, but I wouldn’t do that. Jeff Sessions is loyal to the president,” Representative Peter King, a Republican member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, told Fox News.

Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, defended Sessions’ decision to refer the matter to Horowitz.

Horowitz “has been fair, fact-centric and appropriately confidential with his work,” Gowdy said in a statement. “I have complete confidence in him.”

Fox News: Trump’s punching bag: How much longer will Sessions endure the thrashing?

President Trump’s latest outburst against Attorney General Jeff Sessions – escalating a year-long public flogging of the mild-mannered former senator – is raising the question: How much longer will Sessions endure?

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey backed Sessions’ decision to ask the IG to investigate FISA abuse, calling the move “precisely the right choice.”

“If anyone at DOJ should look into the circumstances of this FISA application, it is the IG, who reports to both the Attorney General and Congress,” he said in a statement.

Trump’s attack was the latest in a long line of public swipes at the AG, who was one of Trump’s earliest supporters and is otherwise aligned with Trump’s base on issues like immigration and crime.

But their relationship soured within months of Trump taking office, largely over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia meddling investigation.

If the attorney general chooses to stay, it would seem unlikely Trump would look to fire him outright, especially given the chaos that followed the ouster of FBI boss James Comey.

Doing so could fire up the already-piqued interest of FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who the Post reports is already investigating a period last summer where Trump tried to push Sessions out, amid concerns Trump was looking to replace him with someone who would exercise control over the Russia probe.

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18 Comments

  1. Joe Bloggs

     /  March 2, 2018

    That’s a strong response from Sessions – the strongest yet from the man trump calls Mr Magog behind his back:

    Sessions’s statement unravelled:

    – The president is criticizing Sessions for acting with “integrity and honor,”

    – In apparent defiance of his president’s wishes, the attorney general plans to have the department “do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.”

    – And—this is more in the nature of guesswork, but still plausible— Sessions may be implying that he is staying in this office as a first line of defense against the department succumbing to the improper pressures from trump

    It’s worth noting that Mueller’s investigating trump’s tweets criticising Sessions as part of his investigation into trump’s apparent obstruction of justice. This latest tweet just adds petrol to the fire.

  2. duperez

     /  March 2, 2018

    Trump’s tweets might reveal a lack of understanding of many things but Trump understands one thing and one thing so thoroughly and totally that it blinds him to anything else:

    He is the elected President of the United States. He is the Top Man, he is the Boss.
    In the world he comes from the boss is The Boss. That’s what’s in his head and the only way that could be changed would be with the head being fired. He understands that too.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  March 2, 2018

      He is not the boss of the US, although he would probably like to be.

  3. David

     /  March 2, 2018

    The tweet gets all the usual suspects knickers in a bunch as they explore the implications, the wrongness and there is another round of bobble heads yack yacking and all the while Trump gets his message across to the 90% of the population that thinks Washington is a swamp of self interested clowns.
    Trump winning again while everyone elses heads explodes.

    • Joe Bloggs

       /  March 2, 2018

      Maaaate, you need to seek help for that nasty outbreak of Trump Apologist Syndrome.

      Just imagine the reaction from “conservative” leaders to the following headlines had Hillary Clinton been elected president:

      – President Clinton Sends Congress $4.4 Trillion Spending Plan That Features Soaring Deficits

      – Friday Will Be The One Year Anniversary of Hillary’s First, Last and Only Formal White House Press Conference

      – Clinton Attacks FBI Director, Denies Asking Him Who He Voted for President

      – Clinton’s Fiscal Stimulus Could be Bigger Than Obama’s

      – Thirty to 40 White House Officials and Administration Political Appointees Are Still Operating Without Full Security Clearances, Including President Clinton’s Son-in-Law

      – Clinton Lawyer Used Private Company, Pseudonyms to Pay Porn Star

      – Clinton Blocks Release of Republican Russia Memo

      – FBI Director Contradicts Hillary Clinton’s Timeline on [Senior Aide’s] Abuse Probe

      – How Clinton Is Making Money in The White House, And Why Nobody Will Stop Her

      – Hillary Clinton Goes Golfing During Funerals for Shooting Victims

      – Former Clinton Aide Pleads Guilty; Agrees to Testify Against Other Clinton Aide

      • David

         /  March 2, 2018

        You worry about such trivialities. Meanwhile more jobs, pay rises and wall to wall entertainment.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  March 2, 2018

          Fewer jobs in many places.

          The trumpeted drop in medicine prices was a lie. They are up in price.

          The 25,000 new jobs in one place are actually 3000. Nice, but not as nice as 3000.

        • Joe Bloggs

           /  March 2, 2018

          well plenty of jobs at the WH that’s for sure – with more than double the staff churn of any other president on record trump was clearly lying when he claimed “I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people. . . . We want top of the line professionals.”

          Even you should appreciate that the huge staff churn (more than triple Obama’s) has created disruption, unwanted press coverage, and inefficiency…. or does your trump apologist syndrome blind you to that too?

          • David

             /  March 2, 2018

            Obama never did anything and was an inside creature of Washington with instead of a WH press corp had a compliant bunch of stenographers. Easy Street with a procession of celebrities lining up…hardly a job one would want to quit.

      • David

         /  March 2, 2018

        The funny thing being all those headlines have existed before attached to a Clinton.

  4. Joe Bloggs

     /  March 2, 2018

    For Sessions to have a very public night out with Rosenstein on the same day trump called him out on Twitter shows that the attorney general has started to distance himself from the president.

    • David

       /  March 2, 2018

      The juicy bit Joe is that he is in a restaurant right opposite Trumps hotel.

  5. Mefrostate

     /  March 2, 2018

    These are strange times indeed where I place my trust in Jefferson Beauregard Sessions

    • MaureenW

       /  March 2, 2018

      Personally, I don’t think Sessions should have ever accepted the role of AG, and then recused himself from the Russia inquiry. Lame duck and, why would a person do this?

  6. David

     /  March 2, 2018

    “Donald Trump has again ignored the principle preserving judicial and prosecutorial independence with another attack on the US Attorney General.”

    What principle is this exactly? Eric Holder made his loyalty very clear when he was AG.

  7. Fight4NZ

     /  March 3, 2018

    Has he been studying the Judith Collins playbook?