Trump’s at­tacks may de­fine Ses­sions’ legacy

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OBITUARIES - By Eric Tucker

WASH­ING­TON — At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions has vig­or­ously pushed Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s agenda at the Jus­tice Depart­ment, and be­fore that, spent 20 years cham­pi­oning con­ser­va­tive causes in the Se­nate.

Yet as Ses­sions en­ters what may be the fi­nal stretch of his ten­ure, those ef­forts are at risk of be­ing eclipsed by his boss’ re­lent­less ver­bal jabs that have made the at­tor­ney gen­eral seem like a per­pet­ual pres­i­den­tial punch­ing bag. It’s a role Ses­sions never sought but per­haps could have an­tic­i­pated.

The steady di­a­tribes , most re­cently a tweet ex­co­ri­at­ing Ses­sions for the fed­eral in­dict­ments of two Repub­li­can con­gress­men, re­flect Trump’s sin­gle-minded out­rage over the spe­cial coun­sel’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion and are all the more strik­ing be­cause Ses­sions is the cab­i­net mem­ber most clearly aligned with Trump’s val­ues.

The treat­ment has largely over­shad­owed the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s work on vi­o­lent crime, il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and opi­oid ad­dic­tion, cloud­ing a legacy that in other times would be more broadly cheered in con­ser­va­tive cir­cles.

“There are folks that ask me con­stantly, ‘What’s wrong with Ses­sions?’” said for­mer Cincin­nati mayor Ken Black­well, a long­time friend who says the crit­i­cism is “erod­ing what oth­er­wise would be a very re­spectable port­fo­lio.”

“The punches that he throws in Ses­sions’ di­rec­tion are land­ing and they’re dis­tort­ing the track record,” Black­well added, “and they’re hav­ing peo­ple start to ques­tion not just his loy­alty to the pres­i­dent but his com­pe­tency — when his record is a very suc­cess­ful record and could be com­pared to any other Cab­i­net sec­re­tary.”

Ses­sions has mostly ab­sorbed the blows qui­etly while march­ing through a tough-on-crime agenda, bring­ing to the job the same hard-line prin­ci­ples that once placed him far to the right of many other Repub­li­can sen­a­tors.

He has en­cour­aged more ag­gres­sive mar­i­juana en­force­ment, directed pros­e­cu­tors to bring the most se­ri­ous charges they can prove, an­nounced a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy for im­mi­grants cross­ing the bor­der il­le­gally and tar­geted the MS-13 gang.

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