If Trump wants to fire Jeff Sessions, let him – it would be a gift to America | Trevor Timm

Far from opening the door to a more loathsome attorney general, Sessions’ dismissal would probably mean more headaches for Trump – and relief from persecution for millions

Donald Trump has spent the past few days publicly throwing his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, under a bus, apparently furious that Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation shortly after he was confirmed for the job.

As a result, everyone is speculating that Trump is trying to force Sessions to resign, or will eventually fire him directly if Sessions does not act himself. Strangely, many Democrats seem to be worried that Trump will actually pull the trigger, when they should be welcoming this development with open arms. Sessions leaving the justice department would be a gift to the American public on multiple levels.

The argument for Sessions remaining in office centers on the fact that Trump could attempt to install a new attorney general who would have a free hand to fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and thwart the Russia investigation. But this argument is both wrong and short-sighted.

Trump probably has other avenues to get rid of Mueller that don’t necessarily require a new attorney general, as the former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal wrote in May. They would be politically risky, but that has not stopped Trump before. In addition, since Trump has absolutely no qualms about violating norms of the presidency, he could also pardon those who are under investigation and undercut the criminal element of Mueller’s mandate anyway.

But even if that weren’t the case, viewing Sessions solely through the lens of the Russia investigation is an insult to the countless Americans who will suffer under Sessions’ extremist reign as attorney general.

Think about all the abhorrent policies Sessions has already put into motion in his five short months at the helm. He has provided legal backing for Trump’s extreme immigrations policies. He has argued that authorities can keep grandparents apart from their family when enforcing Trump’s controversial travel ban. He is laying the groundwork to crack down on the millions of people who use recreational marijuana in states where it is now legal. He has planned a crackdown on leakers and whistleblowers, while also refusing to rule out prosecuting news organizations directly for doing their job.

He plans on essentially dismantling the vital civil rights division at the justice department and giving local police officers a free hand to continue to discriminate against African Americans. He wants to reverse the Obama-era policy on mandatory minimum sentences and press for still longer terms, whose impact is so extreme they are rightly seen as racist. Sessions has rejected scientific findings about improving the forensic evidence process that has led to countless innocent people being thrown in prison. The list goes on.

Sessions is exerting more power over millions of Americans than any other Trump cabinet member and is an unmitigated disaster for civil rights, civil liberties and criminal justice reform. If Trump wants to fire him, then good!

Now I’m sure people will argue: “But what if the person who replaces Sessions is worse?” It’s hard to imagine how anyone could do more damage in that position than Sessions. This is not the same situation as that of James Comey: Comey was problematic but the prospect of having an FBI director who could politicize the agency even more was very probable. Sessions is the worst of the worst on a dozen or more issues – which is why so many progressive groups were vehement in their opposition to him in the first place.

Furthermore, if Sessions is forced out, it will probably, at minimum, gum up the works for months and forestall the justice department from implementing any more of the reactionary policies that Sessions is known for. Trump is going to have a significant problem getting an attorney general confirmed at all after he fires Sessions. Even Republicans, as shameless as they are on pretty much all other issues, will probably be forced to require the next attorney general make assurances about Mueller and the Russia investigation – especially since Sessions was their colleague for two decades and they may be insulted by how Trump has treated him.

And if Trump can’t get an attorney general through the Senate confirmation process, Democrats can block a recess appointment, just as Republicans did during the Obama administration for a host of nominees. This could leave a temporary justice department official in charge of the agency in the interim, which could mitigate a lot of the more extreme policy changes that Sessions has already started.

On top of all this, if firing Sessions is seen by Mueller and Congress as another move by Trump that could be viewed as obstruction of justice, it only strengthens the case against him if impeachment is ever on the table.

Sessions leaving office leads to the best of all worlds: a uniquely horrible Trump cabinet official who is making life miserable for millions of Americans is gone; it will be incredibly tough for Trump to get a new attorney general confirmed; he won’t be able to make a recess appointment; and it might further the obstruction of justice case against him.

Far from warning Trump, Democrats should be trying to goad him into firing Sessions.


Trevor Timm

The GuardianTramp

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