It’s fair to ask this question regarding former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions: Was he doing a bad enough job as the nation’s top lawyer to be fired for cause?
I keep coming back to this answer: No.
Donald Trump fired Sessions for one reason only. He fired him because the AG recused himself from the Russia investigation. The attorney general had no choice but to step away. He could not possibly ever in a million years take charge of an investigation in which he was a key participant in the matter being investigated.
Sessions was a key adviser to the Trump presidential campaign. He made contact with Russians who were, um, interested in the outcome of the election. The law required him to hand the probe over to someone else. That’s what Sessions did.
The AG’s recusal enraged the president. Sessions doomed his tenure at the Justice Department the moment he stepped away.
Trump wanted Sessions to plow straight ahead and seemingly wanted him to push aside the questions that arose from the Trump presidential campaign’s dealings with Russian operatives who attacked our electoral system in 2016. That the attorney general couldn’t — or wouldn’t — do the president’s bidding simply was more than the president could tolerate.
The only public criticism Trump leveled against Sessions dealt with his recusal and his failure to tell the president he could not deal specifically with the Russia matter.
It’s interesting in the extreme that the president didn’t criticize DOJ’s performance under Sessions’s command. He didn’t lament any perceived disobeying of public policy. Sessions, you’ll recall, announced to the country that the Trump administration was implementing a policy that took children from their parents as they crossed the border into our country illegally. And didn’t he cite Scripture as his basis for doing so?
There will be plenty to say about the appointment of Matthew Whitaker, Trump’s choice to become acting AG.
But for now I am left to wonder out loud what others have asked already: How in the world does the president justify his firing of Jeff Sessions other than to express anger that the ex-AG was being true to the law?
That is no basis for terminating a U.S. attorney general.