Thomas Gallatin / August 24, 2018

Trump’s Sessions Strategy

What is there something strategic going on in the Trump-Sessions dispute?

“I put in an attorney general who never took control of the Justice Department. Jeff Sessions never took control of the Justice Department,” President Donald Trump said during a Fox News interview aired on Thursday. During that interview, Trump also pointedly stated, “Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn’t have done or he should have told me. Even my enemies say that ‘Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself and then you wouldn’t have put him in.’”

This has been a long-running complaint repeatedly expressed by Trump since Sessions recused himself from the Democrat’s fake Trump-Putin collusion delusion. But on Thursday, Sessions pushed back: “I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda — one that protects the safety and security and rights of the American people, reduces violent crime, enforces our immigration laws, promotes economic growth, and advances religious liberty.” He then added, “While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”

Trump responded, “‘Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.’ Jeff, this is GREAT, what everyone wants, so look into all of the corruption on the "other side” including deleted Emails, Comey lies & leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr, FISA abuse, Christopher Steele & his phony and corrupt Dossier, the Clinton Foundation, illegal surveillance of Trump Campaign, Russian collusion by Dems - and so much more. Open up the papers & documents without redaction? Come on Jeff, you can do it, the country is waiting!“

This latest tit-for-tat raises an obvious question: If Trump is so disappointed with Sessions, why has he not fired him? Some Republicans speculate that is coming. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) opined, "The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in … and I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice.” He added, “Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) warned Trump against firing Sessions, while at the same time rebuking his fellow senators who suggest otherwise. Sasse asserted, “It would be a very, very, very bad idea to fire the attorney general because he’s not executing his job as a political hack.”

These two Republican responses may lend some insight into Trump’s strategy of perceived chaos. For better or worse, Trump embraces the adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity. He always acts to keep himself front and center in an effort to get his message out as broadly as possible. Here he’s using Sessions as a foil in order to reinforce his message that there is a deep state seeking to undermine the will of the American people by engaging in a witch hunt into the nonexistent Trump/Russia collusion conspiracy. It’s no secret that much of the Washington establishment has never accepted his election and has been working to see him removed from office.

All the soundbites aside, when Trump is playing four-dimensional chess, all the media sees is a checkers game. There is likely a strategic angle to the Trump-Sessions dispute. It gives his critics within the Republican Party someone to rally behind. This allows these Never-Trumpers to feel comfortable voting Republican in the midterms, but by supporting the party’s agenda rather than directly supporting Trump. In a sense it’s a win-win strategy.

While Trump does have a propensity to say things that are off-the-cuff, his decisions are anything but impulsive and his administration’s record makes that clear. If anything, he’s effectively communicating to the American public that he is not beholden to the Washington establishment.

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