Upon entering the White House in 2017, President Trump largely was seen as a pariah within his own party as much of its established leadership shunned him. He feuded with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over the latter’s failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, and danced on the grave of Senator Bob Corker’s (R-Tenn.) career when he decided not to run for a third term once Trump vowed to oppose him.
Anyone who has followed Trump’s career prior to his running for office should not be surprised that he is a spiteful and deeply litigious person to those he sees as his personal foes. But the difference in the Alabama race is very clear: Jeff Sessions was an early and stalwart supporter of the Trump agenda and took exceptional risk to his own standing by endorsing him in February 2016. As an immigration hawk, Sessions’ endorsement was a major gain for someone who had been seen as a barbarian savage by the likes of McConnell and then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
As Trump’s nominee for attorney general in 2017, Sessions was opposed ferociously by the media and his former colleagues from across the aisle. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) testified against Sessions during his confirmation hearings, reversing his previous praise of him over civil rights. During those hearings Trump remained strongly in his corner, rebuffing any attempt to force him to withdraw the nomination which passed on a 52-47 vote with Joe Manchin of West Virginia the only Democrat voting for him.
Those happy days between Trump and Sessions are long over.
Sessions as attorney general was indeed a hardliner on immigration, promising and delivering on sanctioning sanctuary cities and states and cracking down on child predators. Sessions’ Justice Department also supported conservative student organizations in free speech litigation, a cause in which Ann Coulter personally was involved.
If anyone had cause to object to Sessions as the top lawman in the country, it was libertarians like me who saw his drug war jingoism as more of the same bullheaded policy, but this was expected of him. As far as his actual policies in the Justice Department, Sessions was the same man he always was and that Trump nominated.
Coulter Takes Aim at Kushner
In the matter of one major saga of the Trump era, Sessions destroyed his standing in the eyes of the president: The investigation of Russian collusion by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Coulter has slammed Donald Trump for blaming Sessions for this, and alleged in a podcast appearance for the Daily Caller that she had been approached to tone down her attacks on Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. She acknowledged calling him a retard, an addled narcissist, big baby, and all manner of epithets typical in her most histrionic interviews. She added to it a laughable prediction: that Trump, if he sees himself losing later this summer, will withdraw in favor of Mike Pence at the Republican National Convention. And then to top it off she was asked whether she would vote for the narcissist big baby, and she said yes (although she might write in Sessions)!
It is difficult to condemn Coulter’s emotional and vitriolic language, however, given that she is responding in kind to Trump’s own. Still, absolving Sessions of any responsibility in the Russiagate saga is also dishonest and too charitable to him.
Coulter claims that as a former campaigner for Trump, Sessions was required to recuse himself from the Russia probe as he did in March 2017, and that Trump bears the blame for the special counsel investigation because he took Kushner’s advice in firing FBI Director James Comey two months later. In the wake of that firing, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to be the special counsel and investigate the Trump campaign.
Coulter’s argument is that Sessions was required to recuse himself due to his activities on the campaign and that therefore it was Trump who bungled the affair. But if that were so, why couldn’t Sessions have appointed a special counsel himself? In 1999, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed a special counsel in order to investigate the Waco siege in which she had personally played a role. No one objected to that, not even Ann Coulter.
The purpose of appointing a special counsel is to delegate to someone else a task in which the person recused has a conflict of interest. Sessions was fully within his own authority to perform this job without adding the extra input of Rosenstein.
Moreover, Comey’s own behavior in using FBI investigations in order to preserve the FBI’s political standing was so egregious that his firing was demanded whether Kushner wanted it or not. Democrats blamed him for wrecking the Hillary Clinton candidacy by publicly reopening an FBI investigation the week before the 2016 election. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had said on November 2 that he had “lost confidence” in Comey.
What Coulter also ignores is that much of the momentum driving that investigation was the leaks by federal employees within Trump’s administration including the Justice Department. It was only in August 2017 that Sessions announced an investigation into those leaks, and by then Mueller had already been appointed by Rosenstein. Comey’s acting replacement, Andrew McCabe, was also implicated later by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz for leaking details of the Russia investigation to the media. The complicity of Justice Department insiders in the campaign to amplify the accusations against the Trump administration was crucial to sabotaging his first term.
Gone was the hope of resolving geopolitical conflicts with Russia. The Mueller probe would provide the tip of the spear for endless media speculation that even if the former FBI director didn’t find evidence of collusion, Trump would be dirty enough to indict for something else. Indeed, the people who were prosecuted like Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, and George Papadopoulos, all were indicted on crimes that were completely unconnected to any activities concerning Russia.
According to Coulter’s logic, all of this could have been avoided if only Jared Kushner was not in any way involved in advising the president on the Comey firing. This is an example of Coulter, once again, attacking Trump’s vindictiveness in the most Trumpian vindictive way possible.
Everyone knows Coulter despises Kushner. Her criticism of Kushner’s corporate coddling on immigration, law, and taxation is well-founded. But Kushner is an immovable accomplice in this unless and until he gets divorced from Ivanka. That being said, Sessions’ dawdling at the top allowed people like Comey to run wild and leak information with impunity. The Justice Department oozed with spicy tidbits that ethically-challenged journalists happily slurped up like burrito filling after too much time in the microwave.
The Burned Bridge from Alabama
As Coulter hints in the interview, Trump’s vitriolic attacks on Sessions are a mark of his inconsistency. At the same time he dumps on his former attorney general, Trump is also withholding any endorsement in the Kansas U.S. Senate race in which his former Commission on Electoral Integrity chief, Kris Kobach, is running. The behavior of the president in this context indicates this is indeed a matter of personal resentment and political calculation and not policy differences. But those deciding on whom to vote for should be aware that there are no heroes in this conflict with Sessions.
Jeff Sessions was a senator perfectly representative of Alabama politics prior to becoming attorney general. But his major failure in the one central saga of his time at the Justice Department cannot be overlooked just because people like Coulter think that as a cabinet-level official he should be excused for the blatant wrongdoing his underlings committed on his watch.
Electorally speaking, the only other options available are Tommy Tuberville, who is basically a jock running a vanity candidacy with the support of the Club for Growth and other soft border interests, or reelecting Doug Jones. While Sessions’ supporters like Coulter and “Rising” co-host Saagar Enjeti cite his intervention in the race as evidence that Trump is betraying his populist agenda, populism is becoming an arbitrary label.
Coulter at one point floated the idea of supporting Bernie Sanders for president—another wet noodle who Enjeti and his leftist co-host Krystal Ball continue to pump up as a “populist,”—if Sanders would go back to his previous immigration stance.
“I don’t care about all of that socialist stuff, I would vote for him, I’d even work for him (Sanders),” Coulter told PBS reporter Margaret Hoover in a 2019 interview. So Bernie Sanders, who kneeled and bowed his head to the open borders DNC after knowing they cheated him, is redeemable in the eyes of Ann Coulter if he merely reverses his immigration position again, but Donald Trump isn’t? It’s clear that Trump isn’t the only one making this a personal vendetta.