News & Politics
Premium

Trump Needs to Lay Off Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference to announce a criminal law enforcement action involving China, at the Department of Justice in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Justice Department and FBI leaders announced criminal charges and an operation to thwart Chinese economic espionage. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Trump needs to lay off Jeff Sessions.

Trump’s election was remarkable for a number of reasons. One, in particular, was that he was elected to the highest office in the country despite having zero experience in politics before that. Politics as usual, he argued, wasn’t working and his experience in the private sector made him uniquely qualified to clean up the mess of the Obama years. To accomplish this, Trump promised he would hire “the best people” to serve in his administration.

While Trump has picked some highly qualified people to serve in his administration, he’s undermined his own argument for his judiciousness by trashing people he selected to serve in his administration when they leave. He viciously attacked General Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis as “the world’s most overrated general” after he left the administration despite a hugely successful foreign policy agenda under his watch. Trump lambasted former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as “dumb as a rock.” He blasted his former Chief of Staff John Kelly as being “in over his head.” If I had to guess, Trump has publicly criticized those who have left his administration more than he has praised them.

My suspicion is that when Trump said he would hire “the best people” he really meant “the best yes-men.” I was critical of Barack Obama for surrounding himself with yes-men, and I think Trump’s apparent affinity for yes-men is similarly bad news.

Regardless of the reasons for former staff-members’ departure, Trump’s endless trashing of people who once had his confidence is problematic for him. He gives his critics ammunition to raise doubts about his judgment, and as he makes the case to the American people for a second term, he’s making it that much harder for himself to find people to serve in his administration. Second terms typically result in a slew of resignations, and it’s hard to imagine that there are enough people willing to risk a public flogging from Trump if they disagree with him.

One person who’s had the ire of Trump for some time now is former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who endorsed Trump early on in the campaign, and restored law and order to the Department of Justice during his tenure there. But his recusal from matters pertaining to the election didn’t sit well with Trump, and it ultimately gave us the Mueller investigation into bogus claims of Russian collusion. It was an unfortunate waste of time and money, but Sessions insists his recusal was legally and politically necessary. Whether he’s right or not I can’t say, but I can tell you that Trump’s feud with Sessions is not good, and it needs to stop. On Saturday, President Trump literally called on Sessions to drop out of the race for his former Senate seat.

I was hopeful that Trump would have stayed out of the primary and endorsed whichever Republican came out victorious. But, should Sessions win the primary, Trump risks depressing the vote for Sessions in November in a race that could determine the balance of power in the Senate. There is nothing to be gained by fighting a war with someone who is not your enemy. Jeff Sessions would be a strong supporter of the Trump agenda in the Senate, and he seems very willing to look beyond this feud for the benefit of the country. I wish Trump could do the same.

_____

Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis

Trump Is ‘Damn Fortunate’ Sessions Recused Himself on Russia, Former AG Insists