The relationship between President Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been on the rocks ever since Sessions unexpectedly recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, resulting in the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel.
That Trump has never forgiven Sessions — who was an early and fervent supporter of the Trump candidacy when the orange-skinned real estate tycoon was still a nightmare on the horizon for the rest of the GOP candidates — has been obvious from the Twitter trail of personal denigration and insults aimed at the Attorney General that the President has issued in response to the twists and turns of the Mueller investigation.
Perhaps no tweet has been as devastating as the one Trump sent out this morning in a glaring public attack on Sessions over an issue that any other President would have discussed with his cabinet member behind closed doors.
Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2018
Given that Trump’s game is to fight his battles in the court of public opinion, a strategy that has yielded few benefits if the support polls are to be believed, Trump’s public attack is bound to elicit some reaction from his Attorney General who, up until now at least, has swallowed his pride and generally held his tongue after each new attack, knowing that you can only pull the threat of resignation trick once before you wind up having your bluff called and find yourself out of a job.
At this point, professional pride, the desire to be seen as upholding the rule of law that he swore to protect as the top Justice Department official, and perhaps even the knowledge that if he leaves Trump could appoint someone who could fire Mueller and — unhindered by the promise of a recusal — takeover and shut down the Russia investigation, are the only things preventing Sessions from quitting his thankless position.
Tonight, however, in the wake of Trump’s most offensive public comment on the Attorney General’s performance, Sessions made a very public display of having dinner at an expensive and popular Washington DC restaurant with his two top staff members, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, another person presumably on the President’s hit list, and Solicitor General Noel Francisco, according to an article on Axios.
Political analysts see the dinner as a show of solidarity within the Justice Department after the President’s tweet on a day when Trump was already faced with the resignation of his Communications Director Hope Hicks, reportedly after Trump berated her for telling the truth about her “white lies” to the members of the House Intelligence Committee in her testimony.
The reality of the situation right now is that now matter how desperate Trump may be to escape from the tightening claws of Mueller’s investigation, he can ill afford to lose another senior member of his administration at this juncture after the Rob Porter wife-beating and security clearance scandal, the demotion of son-in-law Jared Kushner’s security clearance, and the grumblings about the continued tenures of both his Chief of Staff John Kelly and his National Security adviser H.R. McMaster.
With his administration in disarray and his options for dealing with the Justice Department and the Mueller investigation hemmed in by public opinion and a divided Congress that may not stand for any actions that would threaten the investigation into Russian electoral interference, the President may have to settle for venting on Twitter while Sessions and his top two deputies enjoy their defiant dinner. Any other option would look disastrous at this point, but with Trump being who he is, anything could still happen.