In Washington, Republicans in the Trump era face a choice: go all in, head-first and happy, embracing the chaos and lies, or toe the party line just enough to prevent early morning presidential tweetstorms and appease their conservative constituents.
Jeff Sessions chose the former.
Boy, did he. He wallowed in it, a pig in mud.
Alabama’s former junior U.S. senator was candidate Donald Trump’s first congressional fan. He donned a red hat. He astonishingly believed Trump was what the Republican Party needed — a blunt outsider who didn’t value the normal political boundaries that prevented implementation of true conservative policies. His Trump fandom earned him the role as attorney general. And now Sessions is out because the Manhattan billionaire to whom he sold his political soul wanted him gone because he recused himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Trump, as he famously told fired FBI chief James Comey, expected loyalty. Blind, absolute loyalty. Sessions chose recusal, as ethics would require given his role in the president’s campaign. Trump, though, has no use for ethics. They’re speedbumps to ignoble victories. He wanted his attorney general to protect him from Mueller’s damning probes into his alleged ties with Russian operatives.
America waits impatiently to see if Trump pulls a Richard Nixon and attempts a strong-arm end to the Mueller investigation. And, in truth, Sessions got what he deserved.
This is the risk Republicans take when they stand close to this president. To Trump, everything is about Trump. America first? No. Trump first. Sessions’ bet on Trump proved an abysmal failure, a stain on his career.
So, too, did his tenure as America’s top law enforcer. With Sessions in charge, the U.S. Department of Justice assaulted our deeply embedded character as a beacon of peace to immigrants. Sessions was needlessly obsessed with preventing the loosening of marijuana laws. His creation of a “Religious Liberty Task Force” signaled an all-out assault on anything deemed un-Christian, particularly rights for America’s LGBTQ community.
Sharing similar antipathy toward minorities, he and Trump ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protected nearly three-quarters of a million young immigrants. And his xenophobic attitude toward immigration at large played an oversized role in one of the worst American mistakes of our lifetime — the warehousing of children who had been forcibly removed from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Jeff Sessions, the highest-profile Alabamian of the Trump administration, is “the worst attorney general in modern American history,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. That sounds about right.
For now, there’s no reason to think Sessions won’t seek a return to Congress and challenge U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Birmingham, in the next election cycle. Alabama Republicans would likely send him back to Washington. But that won’t absolve this favorite son of south Alabama from his disastrous record as America’s attorney general. On that, he deserves the reputation he’s earned.