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Jeff Sessions In The Doghouse

Jeff Sessions, in better days (Gage Skidmore)

Is there a more loyal Donald Trump supporter than Attorney General Jeff Sessions (not named “Trump” or “Kushner,” I mean)? Sessions was with Trump when everybody else in Washington thought that was absurd. But even that is not enough to protect Sessions from the wrath of the president who thinks the law is himself, according to The New York Times:

Few Republicans were quicker to embrace President Trump’s campaign last year than Jeff Sessions, and his reward was one of the most prestigious jobs in America. But more than four months into his presidency, Mr. Trump has grown sour on Mr. Sessions, now his attorney general, blaming him for various troubles that have plagued the White House.

The discontent was on display on Monday in a series of stark early-morning postings on Twitter in which the president faulted his own Justice Department for its defense of his travel ban on visitors from certain predominantly Muslim countries. Mr. Trump accused Mr. Sessions’s department of devising a “politically correct” version of the ban — as if the president had nothing to do with it.

In private, the president’s exasperation has been even sharper. He has intermittently fumed for months over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people close to Mr. Trump who insisted on anonymity to describe internal conversations. In Mr. Trump’s view, they said, it was that recusal that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation.

Trump’s worst problems have not been caused by Jeff Sessions, or by Sean Spicer, or by anybody other than Donald Trump. More:

But the messages caused considerable head scratching around Washington since it was Mr. Trump who signed the revised executive order and, presumably, agreed to the legal strategy in the first place. His posts made it sound like the Justice Department was not part of his administration.

The White House had little to add to the president’s messages on Monday. Asked why Mr. Trump signed the revised order if he did not support it, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, said he did it only to convince a California-based appeals court. “He was looking to, again, match the demands laid out by the Ninth Circuit and, for the purpose of expediency, to start looking at the best way possible to move that process forward,” she said.

Our president is making himself look like a fool who doesn’t know how the US government works. In revising the travel ban language, Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department were trying to come up with one that would be more likely to survive Supreme Court review. Trump must be the only person in America who thinks that by force of his audacious will, he can bend the Supreme Court to his will. Sessions and his team were trying to serve the president’s best interests — and it seemed that the president understood that, which is why he approved the revised version. Until now.

Why does anyone want to work for Trump? He routinely cuts the legs out from under his most loyal people. He marched Spicer et alia out to give an official story about James Comey’s firing, then made them out to be liars a couple of days later in his interview with NBC. Now it is reported that he ambushed his national security team — McMaster, Mattis, and Tillerson — with an impromptu speech change at the NATO summit, concerning Article 5. Excerpt from Politico:

It was not until the next day, Thursday, May 25, when Trump started talking at an opening ceremony for NATO’s new Brussels headquarters, that the president’s national security team realized their boss had made a decision with major consequences—without consulting or even informing them in advance of the change.

“They had the right speech and it was cleared through McMaster,” said a source briefed by National Security Council officials in the immediate aftermath of the NATO meeting. “As late as that same morning, it was the right one.”

Added a senior White House official, “There was a fully coordinated other speech everybody else had worked on”—and it wasn’t the one Trump gave. “They didn’t know it had been removed,” said a third source of the Trump national security officials on hand for the ceremony. “It was only upon delivery.”

The president appears to have deleted it himself, according to one version making the rounds inside the government, reflecting his personal skepticism about NATO and insistence on lecturing NATO allies about spending more on defense rather than offering reassurances of any sort; another version relayed to others by several White House aides is that Trump’s nationalist chief strategist Steve Bannon and policy aide Stephen Miller played a role in the deletion.

Incredible. The chaos and dysfunction in this White House is such that the National Security Adviser, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of State get sandbagged by the boss in public. Nixon was sneaky, yes, but he was smart. With this one, we are approaching The Madness of King George territory. With nukes, and the world’s most powerful military at his disposal.

When they write the history on the death of the Trump administration, it will be judged a suicide.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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