I am coming to believe that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Lee Sumpter Shiloh Segregation Sessions III is not actually human, but is in fact a subspace anomaly of the Star Trek variety. These anomalies are known to cause irregularities in gravity, ripples in space and alterations in the laws of physics. In short, their very presence makes things weird. Sound about exactly like what’s been going on at the Justice Department for the last year, and it just got a whole lot weirder.
Consider: Sessions, an as-advertised racist, misogynist son of the Confederacy, was happily ensconced in what was, by any metric, a lifetime gig as a senator from Alabama. Along came candidate Trump, so Sessions jumped on board and was named attorney general after the strangest presidential election in the history of matter.
There was great rejoicing in white supremacist circles everywhere upon Sessions’ appointment, until he abruptly chose to recuse himself from any and all investigations into Trump’s dealings with Russia. Trump went berserk with rage upon this seeming betrayal, and has, from time to time since, made it his mission in life to do Sessions harm, in what is nothing, more or less, that yet another expression of the permanent vengeance motive that gets him out of bed every day.
It is worthwhile to note that here, right here, stands one of the tender few moments in Sessions’ tenure as attorney general, when he actually, marginally fulfilled the moral requirements of his station. Given his involvement with the campaign, he had no recourse but to recuse himself from all things Russia … unless he chose to go rogue, fling propriety over the dunes and charge ahead. Like as not, he would have gotten away with it given the current congressional realities, but for whatever reason, he played it straight. In doing so, he deprived Trump of a hole card he’d been counting on, and the presidential wrath in the aftermath has hedged the biblical in scope.
Still left to address was the Alabama Senate seat left open by Sessions’ appointment. The GOP rustled up a candidate from central casting named Luther Strange, but the Steve Bannon wing of the party had other ideas, and one of them was a former Alabama state judge named Roy Moore. Moore’s wild-eyed, right-wing pedigree has been well documented since he fell on his sword to protect a giant Ten Commandments monument in his courthouse, and since he refused to uphold laws granting equal rights for LGBTQ people because Jesus, or something.
In another short span of time, Moore won the primary to become the GOP’s nominee to replace Sessions in the Senate. Then a number of women — five at this point — came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers. Reports began to surface that Moore’s taste for young girls was commonly known, and that he’d even been banned from a mall for aggressively pursuing teenagers. Then Moore painted himself as a martyr and victim while his defenders compared his behavior to Joseph, stepdad of Jesus Christ.
When the assault accusations became public, the GOP practically snapped its collective fibulas trying to kick Moore off the ticket, or barring that, find a write-in candidate to challenge him for Republican votes in the December special election … and just when you thought the quota of weird for this story had been amply filled, along came Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday with a timely suggestion.
As leader of an already-fractious and unmanageable majority, McConnell has a personal vested interest in keeping Moore as far away from the chamber as possible. Sessions, according to McConnell on Tuesday, “fits the mold of somebody who might be able to pull off a write-in. Obviously, it would be a big move for him and for the president.”
Presidents don’t give power back. What is an astonishing power grab for one president becomes the new normal for the next president.
To recap: Sessions was an Alabama senator, then supported Trump, then became Trump’s attorney general, then pissed Trump off with his recusal, then periodically absorbed massive public derision from Trump to the point that he had to insist he wasn’t quitting and now the Senate majority leader is floating him as the savior of the GOP by advocating that he return home to defend his old seat from a theocratic fascist facing numerous allegations of sexual violence.
This isn’t just some goofy trial balloon, either. According to McConnell, “It’s an issue they [Sessions and Trump] are discussing in great detail.”
Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican Party.
The truly weird part, the part that leads me to believe Jefferson Beauregard Wallace Pickett Secession Sessions III is actually a spatial anomaly disrupting physics itself, is this: I want him to stay right the hell where he is. Sessions is by far the worst attorney general of my lifetime, perhaps of all time, and folks, that is saying something. He can’t leave to save Alabama from itself, but must remain at Justice. Why? Because hard as it may be to accept or believe, all of this can get a whole lot worse.
Before his vapid Asia trip, Trump was making a lot of angry noises about his inability to use the Justice Department to grind down and destroy political enemies and anyone else who annoys him. This was disquieting enough by itself — the president’s manifest disdain for and rank ignorance of the rule of law has reached the level of performance art by now — but his pre-trip grousing this time made people decidedly more nervous than usual.
To make matters worse, Sessions “ordered senior prosecutors to evaluate various accusations against Hillary Clinton and report back on whether a special counsel should be appointed,” according to the New York Times. The items on Trump’s investigatory wish list have either been investigated to pieces already, or are little more than fever-dream conspiracies that have oozed from the brain trust at Breitbart.
All of this, of course, is a lot of hyperactive hooey ginned up by the Sean Hannitys of the world to distract and possibly disrupt Robert Mueller’s increasingly intense Trump/Russia investigation. By signaling he was interested, Sessions was indicating that he might be on the verge of providing that smokescreen while actively satisfying Trump’s worst fascist desires.
If the Justice Department becomes the wrath of Trump, that’s pretty much the end of the line for this little constitutional experiment we’ve been fiddling with since the shootout on the Lexington Green. If Sessions were to let this dog slip the leash, we’re done as a nation of laws.
Presidents don’t give power back. What is an astonishing power grab for one president becomes the new normal for the next president, and that president’s power grab becomes the new normal for the president after them. If Trump is allowed to use the vast powers of the federal justice system to chase his enemies up a tree, the practice will become commonplace under his successor. None of us wants to live in that world. It is the world of boots hammering the floorboards in the dead of night, of star chambers and the disappeared.
These grave concerns took a large step backward on Tuesday afternoon when Sessions testified before the House Intelligence Committee. The hearing was ostensibly about the glaring irregularities within Sessions’ own Russia-related testimony, but the conversation veered immediately into the realm of Clinton’s emails and Canadian uranium. Several of the committee members had been demanding a new special counsel investigation since July, and they wanted to know if the attorney general was going to pull the trigger.
When GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said it “looks like” the FBI and the Democratic Party had worked together on the now-infamous Trump/Russia dossier, Sessions replied, “‘Looks like’ is not enough basis to appoint a special counsel.” Later, Sessions told Rep. Jordan, “You can have your idea, but sometimes we have to study what the facts are and to evaluate whether it meets the standard that requires a special counsel.”
Jefferson Beauregard Longstreet Dred Scott Dixie Sub-Space Sessions III is terrible by any standard, but never forget: It can always get worse.
To these ears, it sounded on Tuesday afternoon as if the attorney general was telling everyone yammering about a new special counsel to go back to bed. He did not definitively slam the door on the idea, but he appeared to be about as enthusiastic about it as a cat at bath time. This is welcome news if it holds.
This is why Sessions can’t go running back to Alabama. If he leaves his current post, Trump will likely appoint someone to replace him who is more blatantly in line with his authoritarian visions — someone who could very well authorize hostile politically motivated investigations, and who could also tear up every current investigation into Russia’s electoral meddling, including the all-important one being run by Mueller. Jefferson Beauregard Longstreet Dred Scott Dixie Sub-Space Sessions III is terrible by any standard, but never forget: It can always get worse.
Defining worse: Brett Talley of Alabama, who has never in his life tried a single case as an attorney, and who is married to a senior staff attorney for the Trump administration, has been nominated to a lifetime position on the federal bench. His nomination has already passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote, and appears ready to sail through the main body in similar fashion. No one knows anything about this wildly unqualified man, and he’s about to have sway over literal life-and-death issues until his own dying day.
This is a feature, not a bug. “Trump judges are getting rushed through the confirmation process at a record pace,” reports Eleanor Clift of The Daily Beast, “and they’re super conservative on cultural issues, and mostly young. A lifetime appointment for someone in his or her thirties or forties is a gift that keeps on giving for three or four decades.”
Why? Because these days it isn’t about right or wrong, good or bad, patriotic or otherwise. It’s about counting white men’s noses, period. On this, the GOP has a tall advantage. Let Sessions leave for Alabama, and some yessir Republican embryo will be planted in Justice to do the Lord’s bidding, such as it is.
When preventing a man like Sessions from fleeing is your “better” option for keeping a fledgling totalitarian at bay, matters have gotten far out of joint. In a perfect world, Sessions’ immediate resignation would herald the beginning of an administration-wide exodus that left Donald Trump and Mike Pence counting the minutes before their own well-earned ejection from office. The low fact that Sessions must stay for now is yet another sign that, put simply, we’re all in some powerfully deep shit. Bring your hip waders and pack a lunch. We’re going to be at this for a bit.