Fix­ing the Ses­sions mess

New York Post - - NEWS - Michael Good­win mgood­win@ny­ 11

J EFF Ses­sions is a man in search of a ba­nana peel. When he can’t find one to step on, he sup­plies his own. Ses­sions is not a bad man, but he is a bad at­tor­ney gen­eral, as he demon­strated again Tues­day.

By writ­ing to Repub­li­cans in Congress just hours be­fore he was sched­uled to tes­tify that he was open to ap­point­ing a special pros­e­cu­tor to ex­am­ine for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey’s han­dling of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s e-mail case and the no­to­ri­ous Ura­nium One deal, Ses­sions primed the pump for a re­ally big show.

Democrats ar­rived fu­ri­ous and Repub­li­cans glee­fully ex­pected an ah-ha mo­ment. Both came away un­sat­is­fied and unhappy.

Un­for­tu­nately for Ses­sions, the old con­ceit in jour­nal­ism — that if both sides are an­gry at your story, you’ve done some­thing right — doesn’t ap­ply to be­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral. When no­body’s happy, in­clud­ing your boss, you’re fail­ing.

While Democrats and Repub­li­cans are an­gry at Ses­sions for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, there’s no rule say­ing both can’t be right.

The litany of things he couldn’t re­mem­ber or couldn’t dis­cuss seemed cal­cu­lated to frus­trate rather than en­lighten. The fact that he though non-an­swers to big ques­tions would be good enough re­flects how poorly he fits his job.

His faulty judg­ment has be-come a call­ing card, which is why I’ve ar­gued that ap­point­ing Ses­sions was Trump’s big­gest per­son­nel mis­take; yes­ter­day’s per­for­mance did noth­ing to change my view.

There’s also a new bonus rea­son: had Ses­sions stayed as a sen­a­tor from Alabama, Roy Moore’s dirty his­tory would have re­mained a se­cret in­stead of a na­tional scan­dal that could help flip Se­nate con­trol. Ses­sions’ de­ci­sion to re­cuse him­self, then tell Trump, from any­thing re­lated to the 2016 cam­paign led to the enor­mous cloud over the White House that has dis­torted the first year of the new pres­i­dency. Con­sider the al­ter­na­tive. Imag­ine that Robert Mueller were still in pri­vate law prac­tice, and there were no open-ended in­ves­ti­ga­tion of everybody con­nected to the Trump cam­paign. Then all of Wash­ing­ton would have to ac­cept the elec­tion as set­tled and deal with Trump as pres­i­dent, not as a pinata on a short-term lease. So while Trump erred in nam­ing Ses­sions, Ses­sions is re­spon­si­ble for tak­ing the job when he knew he would have to sit out the most im­por­tant mat­ter be­fore his agency, one that in­creas­ingly smells like an ex­ten­sion of the Democrats’ bid to over­turn the elec­tion.

In that sense, it was es­pe­cially galling that Ses­sions re­fused to an­swer di­rect ques­tions about the Rus­sian dossier pre­pared for Clin­ton’s cam­paign, in­clud­ing whether the FBI un­der Comey paid the au­thor and used the doc­u­ment to re­quest wire­taps on Trump as­so­ciates. Ses­sions never gave a rea­son why he couldn’t an­swer such im­por­tant ques­tions.

Then there’s the Ura­nium One deal, which al­lowed Rus­sia to gain con­trol of 20 per­cent of Amer­ica’s ura­nium sup­ply. On its face, the 2010 deal made lit­tle sense but drew lit­tle at­ten­tion be­cause so lit­tle was known of it.

That was by in­tent, with the role of an FBI in­for­mant who blew the whis­tle on the crimes of an in­volved Rus­sian com­pany kept se­cret as the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing then-Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, green-lighted the deal.

Soon, a gusher of money flowed the Clin­tons’ way, with Bill get­ting a $500,000 speak­ing gig in Moscow aand as much as $145 mil­lion go­ing to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion from par­ties with a stake in the trans­ac­tion. That Mueller was the head of the FBI then, and Rod Rosen­stein was the US At­tor­ney in Mary­land, is not in­ci­den­tal. Both played ma­jor roles in a case that now looks like a cover-up, yet they are now de­cid­ing the fate of the Trump pres­i­dency.

Rosen­stein, as Ses­sions’ deputy, as­sumed his pow­ers af­ter the re­cusal and named his friend Mueller special coun­sel. Nei­ther they nor Comey should be above scru­tiny or rules gov­ern­ing con­flicts of in­ter­est.

In ob­vi­ous ways, Ses­sions’ let­ter say­ing he was open to a new special coun­sel for these is­sues looked like both a tit-for-tat move and a re­sponse to Trump’s de­mands to in­ves­ti­gate Clin­ton.

Those sus­pi­cions were raised by Dems, which was both in­evitable and point­less. The only test that mat­ters is whether the for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tion tried to hide facts that would have killed the ura­nium deal, whether the for­mer sec­re­tary of state gave her ap­proval in ex­change for a wind­fall, and whether the probe of her e-mails was rigged by the Obama Jus­tice Depart­ment.

Yet once again, Ses­sions quib­bled with most of those ques­tions rather than an­swer them di­rectly, leav­ing con­fu­sion about why he wrote the let­ter in the first place and whether he ac­tu­ally in­tends to do any­thing.

Be­cause of the Moore mess and Trump’s un­hap­pi­ness with Ses­sions, the White House has floated the idea that Ses­sions might want to go back to his Se­nate seat. The move could si­mul­ta­ne­ously solve two prob­lems, and though it would be tricky, Ses­sions’ lat­est flubs prove it is the best pos­si­ble out­come.


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