When Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, he failed to keep investigators off the president’s tail. That was unpardonable in Trump’s eyes
In an act of unusual forbearance, Donald Trump waited a full 12 hours after the end of the midterm elections to sack Jeff Sessions. Clearly the president had been itching to get rid of Sessions for months. No matter that Sessions had been one of Trump’s earliest and most vocal supporters, endorsing him when no other Republican senator was willing to embrace the untethered reality TV star as a serious political force. But the early bromance quickly soured, and for most of his unhappy tenure at the helm of the justice department, Sessions became one of Trump’s favorite targets of ritualistic humiliation.
The offense? In March 2017, Sessions recused himself from the Russia inquiry when it emerged he had misremembered certain meetings with the Russians during the campaign. Trump likes to claim he doesn’t hold grudges – witness his recent campaigning for “lyin’ Ted” Cruz – but Sessions’ act was unpardonable. In recusing himself, the attorney general took control of the Russia inquiry out of the hands of a Trump loyalist, and handed it to Rod Rosenstein, where it remained until today.
The rule of law is not thriving when a special counsel investigating a sitting president needs protection from the attorney general
Lawrence Douglas is the James J Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought, at Amherst College, Massachusetts