- - Sunday, September 23, 2018


President Trump has made several less than stellar Cabinet appointments. Scott Pruitt was an expert deregulator who did good work at the Environmental Protection Agency, but he splurged government money on travel and other expenses, and was eventually compelled to resign. Tom Price seemed a smart choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services — he is, after all, a doctor, and presumed to be familiar with health care policy — but he too had expensive tastes, and indulged them at government expense. He too was forced to resign.

But the president hit it out of the park with his selection of attorney general. Jeff Sessions, a U.S. senator from Alabama and a former U.S. attorney, had the right combination of administrative competence, ideological harmony with the president, and deep personal integrity, was the right man to lead the U.S. Justice Department. The liberal establishment’s howls of protest when he was appointed further indicated his fitness for the job.

That’s why it’s a puzzle that the president has so often publicly berated Mr. Sessions, typically using his Twitter account, his favorite method of communication. Mr. Sessions was Trump before Trump was Trump. When Mr. Trump was flirting with fashionable Manhattan liberalism, at one point suggesting that Mitt Romney lost the presidential election in 2012 because he was too tough on illegal immigration, Mr. Sessions held the line on the rule of law, on no issue more so than immigration.

As a senator, he co-sponsored legislation that would have made E-Verify, a system used by employers to check whether their would-be hires had a legal right to be in the country, mandatory. He voted against the DREAM Act, which would have given amnesty to illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors. He voted repeatedly against sanctuary cities and for tougher border security. He even voted against “chain migration,” which its proponents inaccurately call “family unification.”

Through the years 2015 and 2016, Mr. Sessions, then a member of the Senate, displayed unwavering loyalty to Candidate Trump. In August 2015, when much of the media and the Republican establishment regarded him as a bad joke, Mr. Sessions appeared at a Trump rally in Mobile wearing a red baseball cop proclaiming “Make America Great Again.” This was all but a formal endorsement, and an early one at that. Mr. Sessions stayed with him throughout the 2016 campaign, delivering a speech for him at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Since his confirmation as attorney general, Mr. Sessions has stayed similarly steady. He has toughened asylum rules and ramped up immigration prosecution. Normally, with an economy as healthy as ours, illegal migration would be sending the illegals across the border at record numbers. It isn’t, and that’s thanks largely to the measures that the attorney general has put in place. Mr. Sessions’ tenure was all the more refreshing after the pathetic performance of Loretta Lynch.

Yet for all that, for helping to implement one of Mr. Trump’s most important campaign promises, the president has never publicly thanked him nor said a particularly kind word about him. The president has belittled him as “weak” and sundry other insults. In an interview last week with The Hill newspaper, the president complained that “I don’t have an attorney general.”

Mr. Trump’s ire at Mr. Sessions stems from his decision to recuse himself from the Russian collusion probe. Mr. Sessions had no choice, because he had worked closely with Mr. Trump’s campaign; it would have presented a conflict of interest had he stayed involved. Still, the president continues to attack him for that, recently tweeting that “the Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn’t tell me he was going to recuse himself I would have quickly picked someone else. So much time and money wasted, so many lives ruined and Sessions knew better than most that there was No Collusion!” He told television interviewers that same thing, that had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself, he would not have picked him for attorney general.

We sympathize with Mr. Trump’s complaints about the Russia investigation, the oldest established permanently floating crap game in Washington. Robert Mueller should wrap it up and get a new client. Mr. Sessions deserves either a pink slip or the support of the president who appointed him. The attorney general serves at the pleasure of the president. The president’s complaint only makes the president himself look weak and small. Mr. Trump can get a new attorney general any day he chooses.

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