Trump at­tacks Ses­sions, but real tar­get is Mueller

The Star Democrat - - OPINION -

WASH­ING­TON — Amer­i­can hu­morist Will Rogers, who said “I never met a man I didn’t like,” built his leg­endary ca­reer on telling jokes about Congress.

In that hum­ble, “aw shucks” way of his, he said his jokes weren’t meant to hurt any­body. But with Congress, “ev­ery time they make a joke, it’s a law, and ev­ery time they make a law, it’s a joke.”

Pres­i­dent Trump at­tempted to make a joke Mon­day at the Na­tional Scout Jam­boree, at the ex­pense of his Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary, Tom Price, about what would hap­pen to Price if he didn’t cor­ral the votes needed to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare.

Point­ing to Price, a for­mer six-term con­gress­man from Ge­or­gia, whom he put in charge of sell­ing the GOP re­form bill, Trump said, “By the way, are you go­ing to get the votes? You bet­ter get the votes. Oth­er­wise, I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired.’”

Fir­ing some of the top peo­ple in his ad­min­is­tra­tion has been in the fore­front of Trump’s mind al­most from the time he was sworn into of­fice.

He was forced to get rid of his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Michael Flynn, af­ter it was learned that he’d dis­cussed U.S. sanc­tions with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton and lied that he’d never had any contacts with the Mos­cow en­voy.

He fired FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey, who was con­duct­ing a sweep­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian contacts with many of Trump’s aides and ad­vis­ers dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign.

His press sec­re­tary, Sean Spicer, then re­signed abruptly af­ter the hir­ing of Wall Street fi­nancier An­thony Scara­mucci as White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor. Scara­mucci is said to be eval­u­at­ing scores of other White House aides for re­moval and re­place­ment.

But now Trump wants to fire At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions. Ses­sions also had sev­eral dis­cus­sions with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador last year, and sub­se­quently re­cused him­self from any and all de­ci­sions deal­ing with Rus­sian med­dling and cy­ber­se­cu­rity skull­dug­gery in the elec­tion. That meant that the re­spon­si­bil­ity to fill Comey’s va­cancy fell to Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod J. Rosen­stein. Rosen­stein ap­pointed for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller III as special coun­sel, with sweep­ing pow­ers to dig into ev­ery as­pect of the case, in­clud­ing whether the Trump cam­paign co­or­di­nated with Mos­cow on ways to in­flu­ence the out­come of the elec­tion.

In re­cent weeks, the pres­i­dent has lobbed a vol­ley of tweets ex­press­ing his deep dis­ap­point­ment with Ses­sions, say­ing that if he’d known the for­mer se­na­tor would re­cuse him­self from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he wouldn’t have cho­sen him to run the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

In another tweet on Mon­day, Trump called Ses­sions, who was one of his ear­li­est high-pro­file sup­port­ers in the 2016 cam­paign, “our be­lea­guered A.G.,” “VERY weak,” de­mand­ing to know why he was not “look­ing into Crooked Hil­lary’s crimes and Rus­sia re­la­tions.”

In yet another bat­tery of tweets this week, Trump wrote: “Why didn’t A.G. Ses­sions re­place Act­ing FBI Di­rec­tor An­drew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clin­ton in­ves­ti­ga­tion but got big dol­lars ($700,000) for his wife’s po­lit­i­cal run from Hil­lary Clin­ton and her rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Drain the Swamp!”

That begs the ques­tion of why the pres­i­dent doesn’t just re­place McCabe him­self.

Trump’s es­ca­lat­ing pres­sure on Ses­sions to re­sign has been re­lent­less. So far, Ses­sions has re­fused to do so, ef­fec­tively dar­ing his boss to fire him, which would ig­nite a po­lit­i­cal firestorm — es­pe­cially in Congress, where Ses­sions is widely re­spected on both sides of the aisle.

“I don’t think it helps to throw your own peo­ple un­der the bus,” said GOP Rep. Tom Cole of Ok­la­homa.

“Jeff Ses­sions is a man of in­tegrity, loy­alty and ex­tra­or­di­nary char­ac­ter,” says Repub­li­can Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama.

But Trump’s chief tar­get is Mueller. His plan is to get rid of Ses­sions and then in­stall an act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral in a re­cess ap­point­ment dur­ing Congress’s month­long Au­gust va­ca­tion — some­one who would fire Mueller in an at­tempt to end, or at least cur­tail, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

This would al­low Trump’s ap­pointee to avoid the Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion process and serve in that post through the end of next year.

All of this raises deeper ques­tions about the sta­bil­ity of Trump’s gov­ern­ment.

Nearly six months into his pres­i­dency, he is still in the midst of re­ar­rang­ing the deck chairs in his ad­min­is­tra­tion, with scores of key ad­min­is­tra­tive posts re­main­ing un­filled.

Don­ald Lam­bro has been cov­er­ing Wash­ing­ton pol­i­tics for more than 50 years as a re­porter, editor and com­men­ta­tor.

DON­ALD LAM­BRO

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