The Slatest

Even Trump’s Allies Are Freaked Out by the Way He’s Humiliating Jeff Sessions

Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice in Washington on Thursday.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Donald Trump attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions—as in, the attorney general who Trump nominated to his position and who reports to Trump—yet again Tuesday morning on Twitter. New White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci is telling anyone who asks that Trump probably wishes Sessions would quit and/or cease to exist. The Times’ Maggie Haberman reports that Trump is letting Sessions twist in the wind, rather than firing him, simply to torment him.

What POTUS is upset about is that Sessions recused himself from Russia-related issues at the Department of Justice during the controversy over his failure to disclose 2016 conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. (Presumably, in Trump’s mind, an unrecused Sessions would never have OK’d the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who was in fact named to his post by Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein after Trump fired James Comey.) Trump is also apparently angry that Sessions isn’t investigating Hillary Clinton’s private email server situation even though 1) it was already investigated by the DOJ/FBI in 2016, and 2) Trump himself said after being elected that he did not want to see Clinton’s case pursued further.

Given that the Russia mess is 99 percent Trump’s own doing, this is petty behavior even by his own standards—made even more so by Sessions’ status as Trump’s closest political and ideological ally in the Republican Party. Sessions was the first major Republican figure to endorse Trump in 2016, an endorsement from which Sessions never wavered even during “pussy”-gate, and the president has adopted many of the former Alabama senator’s ethno-nationalist policy positions. The only actual proactive initiatives the Trump administration has made “progress” on, such as it is, have involved favorite Sessions subjects like immigration and voting rights. There’s probably no one in the administration who’s demonstrated more loyalty to Trump except the members of his own family.

Sessions himself is said to be “totally pissed” about the betrayal, and other typically stalwart Trump allies—especially those on the hard-right end of the Republican spectrum—are upset as well. Rush Limbaugh called Trump’s attacks on Sessions “discomforting” and “unseemly,” while white nationalist Iowa Congressman Steve King tweeted that Trump’s agenda would be “crippled”without the AG. Breitbart, the site once run by White House senior adviser Steve Bannon, published a piece Monday that said Sessions’ firing or resignation “would be a devastating blow to the prestige and prominence of the nationalist-populist underpinnings of the wider Trump movement.” Here’s Breitbart’s current home page:

Right-wing pundit Erick Erickson (who is, himself, a longtime Trump critic) reports that a current Trump Cabinet secretary described the situation in the White House as a “clusterfuck” and says that multiple top officials are disturbed by it:

“If he can get treated that way, what about the rest of us?” one of the President’s Cabinet secretaries asked me with both shock and anger in his voice. I am told reports about Rex Tillerson (not who I talked to) are legitimate. He is quite perturbed with the President’s treatment of his Attorney General and is ready to quit. Secretary Mattis (also not who I talked to) is also bothered by it.

(Have these guys been under a rock for Donald Trump’s entire life, by the way? He will definitely do this to you too eventually, you dummies!)

Politicians stab their mentors/allies in the back all the time, of course, but they typically do so in order to gain political standing. Trump, in his usual pioneering way, is flipping the script by attacking his own already-tenuous base of support. He’s not throwing Sessions under the bus, in other words, so much as he’s driving it over his own nose to spite his face.