Supporters of Attorney General Jeff Sessions are pushing back after President Donald Trump’s tweet on Wednesday in which he called the AG’s reliance on Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz “disgraceful.”
Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2018
The tweet, reminiscent of the last time Trump publicly turned his Twitter guns on Session, who was an early supporter, set off an even wider echo of Trump’s frustrations. Sean Hannity devoted his monologue to lining up with the president, demanding that Sessions “do his job [and] serve the American people and the rule of law and the Constitution.”
Other commentators on the right were even more devoted to Sessions’ ouster, for example, Rebel Media host John Cardillo, who has long been critical of Sessions. He called the attorney general “weak and powerless” and recommended replacing him with Florida AG Pam Bondi, best known nationally for handing the Trayvon Martin case to crusading special prosecutor Angela Corey, who used her authority to run a highly politicized prosecution of George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was, nonetheless, acquitted on self-defense grounds:
Jeff Sessions is weak and powerless. Time for a new AG.
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) February 28, 2018
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell jumped in the fray as well:
I couldn’t agree more. @USAGSessions must be part of the Bush/Romney/McCain Republican Establishment. He probably supported @realDonaldTrump early in campaign to hide who he really is. Or he could just be a coward. https://t.co/9D1ppRTSyp
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) February 28, 2018
Washington Times contributor Adm. James Lyons did as well, writing Thursday, without mentioning Sessions, that “the Trump administration must take charge and get a competent attorney general to pursue these crimes” because the Department was not looking into Kim Dotcom’s Seth Rich allegations with sufficient vigor.
Unlike last July, Sessions himself immediately displayed his displeasure with the president’s assertion. “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 in a statement.
That night, Sessions, in what may have been a staged display, publicly ate a steak dinner with Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and Solicitor General Noel Francisco. Axios called it a “show of solidarity,” although a source close to Sessions pushed back on that notion.
In any event, the dinner hardly had a calming effect on those elements that want Sessions gone:
Jeff Sessions is dining with Rod Rosenstein tonight at a high-end steak house in Washington DC tonight — That clears things up. We now know what side he's on pic.twitter.com/oQZKPqakDF
— Jacob Wohl (@JacobAWohl) March 1, 2018
Breitbart News reached out to three leading voices of the pro-Trump populist right who are still behind Sessions to get their view concerning this backlash against the attorney general. Bestselling author and conservative columnist Ann Coulter; arch-immigration hawk Rep. Steve King (R-IA); and Kris Kobach, Kansas’s secretary of state, gubernatorial candidate, architect of Arizona’s landmark SB 1070 immigration bill, and Breitbart News contributor, agreed to add their thoughts on the discontentment with Sessions.
All were skeptical, to one extent or another, of the president’s tweeted complaint about Sessions’ reliance on IG Horowitz.
“Having the IG conduct the investigation is the normal protocol for any Department of Justice. Sessions was doing what most attorneys general would do,” Kobach, who himself worked under Attorney General John Ashcroft, told Breitbart News.
Coulter was in broad agreement, telling Breitbart News, “I gather Trump’s current complaint with Sessions is about the DOJ allowing the IG to investigate the FISA warrant on Carter Page. At least that’s what his tweet said. House GOPs say it was mostly based on the sleazy Russian dossier; Dems say it was not. F— Sessions! Why doesn’t he just declassify the warrant request??!! You say he doesn’t have that authority? Who does? Is it the Sec of Agriculture? Is it the FCC? OH WAIT — I REMEMBER! IT’S THE $%^@#$ PRESIDENT. So declassify it, Mr. President!”
King shared the president’s frustrations with the speed of IG Micheal Horowitz’s investigation but was confident Sessions was plotting the right course in his public reliance on it. “That report needs to come out. It’s going to be loaded with a lot. And I think that [Sessions’ DOJ] is well-invested in that being the foundation for any other investigations that might be going on,” he told Breitbart News.
“It’s a lot more complex than I think Jeff Sessions’ critics are saying,” King said. “The thing we don’t know is how many investigations … are being directed by Jeff Sessions behind the scenes,” he posited, adding later, “I also predict you will see some dramatic things come out of the DOJ very soon.”
These assessments were in part borne out by news Thursday night that the IG’s report will include serious allegations of improper conduct from outgoing FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Asked about Sessions’ detractors’ complaints about Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, and others political opponents of the Trump administration’s escaping prosecution thus far, Coulter disputed that the responsibility lay primarily with Sessions. She told Breitbart News, “IT WAS TRUMP WHO ANNOUNCED AFTER TAKING OFFICE THAT HE WASN’T GOING TO PROSECUTE HILLARY. Students of the American system of government might have noticed that that’s not the president’s job to decide who does and doesn’t get criminally investigated. But that’s what he announced! (See my tweet complaining about that. It was outrageous.)”
Congressman King noted Sessions’ desire to keep political bias out of his DOJ. “I know Jeff Sessions. I worked with him for a long time. He believes very strongly in the structure of the rule of law,” King said. “When he says we cannot restore the rule of law if we politicize the DOJ, we should take that exactly at face value and understand that he has to move methodically to get to an objective.”
Both King and Kobach were keen to put Sessions’ tenure at DOJ in context. “We should remember – all the facts that he poured out on immigration, for example, may well have … saved the country from amnesty in 2013 or perhaps before,” King recalled.
“Sessions has a colossal task, perhaps greater than any other Cabinet member. He has to correct all the purposeful mistakes of the Obama Department of Justice,” Kobach argued, “He has to launch to new measures to deal with things like sanctuary cities, and he has to deal with career, ACLU-affiliated attorneys who infest the Justice Department in nearly every division.”
“He’s got to clean the Augean stables. So it’s a huge job, and it probably can’t be done quickly, but I certainly understand the frustration people have,” he added.
As Daily Caller columnist Scott Greer cautioned Wednesday, however, that frustration may not be so easily alleviated by firing Jeff Sessions. Session’s departure will not automatically allow the kind of aggressive, politically involved AG some of his critics want to take his place. On the contrary, a Sessions ouster would put Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at the head of DOJ until the Senate, tenuously held by Republicans, confirm a replacement, who would need virtually every GOP vote. The editorial board of National Review took after this theme Thursday, writing:
With a razor-thin majority in the Senate after Republicans managed to lose the Alabama seat Sessions held for two decades, it has become a difficult feat to confirm Trump nominees. Is now really the moment for the president to be trying to drive his attorney general out the door?
If the president does not want “Obama guys” running the Justice Department, he has a strange way of showing it.
“We have Mueller because of Rod Rosenstein,” King responded to Breitbart News’s question about a post-Sessions DOJ. “If you put him in as attorney general, why in the world would the president think he’s going to get better performance out of a man who’s caused him a lot of problems than the one who is in the process of solving a lot of those problems now?”
“Who could you get to do this, after the way Jeff Sessions has been treated? And on top of that, how long would it take to confirm them in the Senate? I think it’s months. You’ll sit there, with Rod Rosenstein in charge of the DOJ for five-to-six months.”
Coulter had a more concise answer to Sessions’ likely replacement: “Tiffany Trump,” she quipped.