Donald Trump selected most of his cabinet members with the goal of either insulating himself from the Russia scandal or returning favors, making it the most corrupt cabinet of the modern era. It also sets things up so they’re naturally unlikely to turn against him and vice versa. But it makes you wonder just how much trouble Attorney General Jeff Sessions is in, and how badly Trump needs a Russia scapegoat, when you read what Trump just leaked about Sessions.
Going back as far as the spring of 2016, then-Senator Jeff Sessions already seemed to be coordinating the Donald Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia. Sessions was at the meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. And as Palmer Report pieced together back in March, it was Sessions who first introduced Trump to Russian tool Carter Page (link). Trump rather obviously installed Sessions as the Attorney General in the hope that it would hamper the Justice Department’s ability to pursue the Trump-Russia scandal.
But Sessions blew that by lying under oath about Russia during his confirmation hearings, forcing him to recuse himself from the investigation, making him far less useful of a backstop for Trump. And this week Sessions blew it even worse for himself by getting involved with the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Now here come the leaks about Sessions, which have rather obviously been planted (directly or indirectly) by Trump himself:
Take a look at these two passages buried near the bottom of a new Axios article: “Trump has two complaints about Cabinet members: Either they’re tooting their own horns too much, or they’re insufficiently effusive in praising him as a brilliant diplomat, etc” and “Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a big announcement about increasing prison sentences, at the same time that Jared [Kushner] is working on criminal-justice reform” (link). This isn’t difficult to see through.
While Kushner has taken on an absurdly outsized role within Trump’s White House, he doesn’t share Trump’s desire for the spotlight and the external glory. The idea that Kushner would be jealous of Sessions holding a press conference, or that Trump would be jealous on Kushner’s behalf, doesn’t hold water. And yet here we have Trump planting a leak about Sessions being in trouble for stepping on Kushner’s toes.
Jeff Sessions sloppily blew it badly by getting involved in the firing of FBI Director James Comey after he had already recused himself from the Trump-Russia investigation that Comey was leading. Sessions has directly exposed himself to obstruction of justice charges. Trump’s handlers have surely advised him that Sessions is now a legal liability. And as a result we see this leak about how Sessions is suddenly in the doghouse for some other unrelated reason. This feels like Trump is publicly distancing himself from Sessions now, by any excuse necessary, as a way of laying the groundwork for later scapegoating Sessions on Russia. That way he can point back to these earlier “problems” and say that Sessions wasn’t really his guy to begin with. This is demented, but it’s how Trump thinks.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report