The Ses­sions af­fair is more than just a study in char­ac­ter. It car­ries po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions. It has caused the first crack in Trump’s base. Not yet a split, mind you. The base is too solid for that. But amid his 35 to 40 per cent core sup­port, some are

National Post (National Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER

Trans­parency, thy name is Trump, Don­ald Trump. No fil­ter, no gover­nor, no ed­i­tor lies be­tween his im­pulses and his pub­lic ac­tions. He tweets, there­fore he is.

Ron­ald Rea­gan was so self-con­tained and im­pen­e­tra­ble that his of­fi­cial bi­og­ra­pher was prac­ti­cally driven mad try­ing to fig­ure him out. Don­ald Trump is pen­e­tra­ble, hourly.

Never more so than dur­ing his on­go­ing war on his own at­tor­ney gen­eral, Jeff Ses­sions. Trump has been pri­vately blam­ing Ses­sions for the Rus­sia cloud. But rather than call­ing him in to either work it out or de­mand his res­ig­na­tion, Trump has en­gaged in a se­ries of de­lib­er­ate pub­lic hu­mil­i­a­tions.

Day by day, he taunts Ses­sions, call­ing him “be­lea­guered” and “very weak,” and at­tack­ing him for ev­ery­thing from not fir­ing the act­ing FBI di­rec­tor (which Trump could do him­self in an in­stant) to not pur­su­ing crim­i­nal charges against Hil­lary Clin­ton.

What makes the spec­ta­cle so ex­cru­ci­at­ing is that the wounded Ses­sions plods on, re­fus­ing the ob­vi­ous in­vi­ta­tion to re­sign his dream job, the cap­stone of his ca­reer. Af­ter all, he gave up his safe Se­nate seat to en­ter the ser­vice of Trump. Where does he go?

Trump rel­ishes such a catand-mouse game and, by play­ing it so openly, re­veals a deeply re­pel­lent vin­dic­tive­ness in the ser­vice of a patho­log­i­cal need to dis­play dom­i­nance.

Dom­i­nance is his game. Doesn’t mat­ter if you backed him, as did Chris Christie, cast out months ago. Or if you op­posed him, as did Mitt Rom­ney, be­fore whom Trump os­ten­ta­tiously dan­gled the State Depart­ment, only to snatch it away, leav­ing Rom­ney look­ing the fool­ish sup­pli­cant.

Yet the Ses­sions af­fair is more than just a study in char­ac­ter. It car­ries po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions. It has caused the first crack in Trump’s base. Not yet a split, mind you. The base is sim­ply too solid for that. But amid his 35 to 40 per cent core sup­port, some are peel­ing off, both in Congress and in the pro-Trump com­men­tariat.

The is­sue is less char­ac­tero­log­i­cal than philo­soph­i­cal. As Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Stan­dard put it, Ses­sions was the orig­i­nal Trump­ist — be­fore Trump. Ses­sions cham­pi­oned hard-line trade, law en­force­ment and im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy long be­fore Trump (who crit­i­cized Rom­ney in 2012 for be­ing far too tough on il­le­gal im­mi­grants, for ex­am­ple) rode these ideas to the White House.

For many con­ser­va­tives, Ses­sions’ early en­dorse­ment of Trump served as an ide­o­log­i­cal touch­stone. And Ses­sions has re­mained stal­wart in car­ry­ing out Trump­ist poli­cies at Jus­tice. That Trump could, out of per­sonal pique, treat him so rudely now sug­gests to those con­ser­va­tives how cyn­i­cally ex­pe­di­ent was Trump’s adop­tion of Ses­sions’ ideas in the first place.

But be­yond char­ac­ter and be­yond ide­ol­ogy lies the most ap­palling as­pect of the Ses­sions af­fair — re­viv­ing the idea of pros­e­cut­ing Clin­ton.

In the 2016 cam­paign, there was noth­ing more dis­turb­ing than crowds chant­ing “lock her up,” of­ten en­cour­aged by Trump and his sur­ro­gates. Af­ter the elec­tion, how­ever, Trump re­con­sid­ered, say­ing he would not pur­sue Clin­ton, who “went through a lot and suf­fered greatly.”

Now un­der siege, Trump has jet­ti­soned mag­na­nim­ity. Maybe she should be locked up af­ter all.

This is pure mis­di­rec­tion. Even if ev­ery charge against Clin­ton were true and she got 20 years in the clink, it would change not one iota of the truth — or fal­sity — of the charges of col­lu­sion be­ing made against the Trump cam­paign.

More­over, in Amer­ica we don’t lock up po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­saries. They do that in Turkey. They do that (and worse) in Rus­sia. Part of Amer­i­can great­ness is that we don’t crim­i­nal­ize our pol­i­tics.

Last week, Trump spoke at the com­mis­sion­ing of the USS Ger­ald R. Ford air­craft car­rier. Ford was no gi­ant. Nor did he leave a great pol­icy legacy. But he is justly revered for his de­cency and hon­our. His great ges­ture was par­don­ing Richard Nixon, an act for which he was ex­co­ri­ated at the time and which cost him the 1976 elec­tion.

It was an act of po­lit­i­cal self-sac­ri­fice, done for pre­cisely the right rea­son. Nixon might in­deed have com­mit­ted crimes. But the spec­ta­cle of an ex-pres­i­dent on trial and per­haps even in jail was some­thing Ford would not al­low the coun­try to go through.

In do­ing so, he vin­di­cated the very pur­pose of the pres­i­den­tial par­don. On its face, it’s per­verse. It al­lows one per­son to over­turn equal jus­tice. But the Founders un­der­stood that there are times, rare but vi­tal, when so­cial peace and na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion re­quire con­tra­ven­ing or­di­nary jus­tice. Ulysses S. Grant amnestied (tech­ni­cally: paroled) Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers and of­fi­cers at Ap­po­mat­tox, even al­low­ing them to keep a horse for the plant­ing.

In Trump World, the bet­ter an­gels are not in ev­i­dence.

To be sure, Trump is in­deed ex­am­in­ing the par­don power. For him­self and his cronies.


U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions

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