The president’s attacks on Jeff Sessions are fascinating because, as Victor notes below, they undermine so much of the case for Trump himself. As I noted in last week’s G-File, there was a time when the case for Trump among many conservatives rested to a significant degree on Sessions’s support for him. Now, the case against Sessions rests entirely on Trump’s lack of support for the attorney general. Sessions, for good or ill, has not changed. The only thing that’s changed is Trump’s “interests.” I put interests in quotes because I think, objectively speaking, it is not in his interest to fire Sessions or force him to quit. But Trump sees it differently.
One of the things I find most remarkable about all this is how the case for Trump always seems to come back to Hillary Clinton, who — I can report — is not the president of the United States or even a candidate.
I constantly hear that I can’t get over the election and the fact that Trump won. Having taken a vigorous personal inventory of my feelings, I can tell you that I don’t believe this to be the case. But it does seem like some people can’t let go of the election. Every night, Sean Hannity beats on the “real scandal” of Hillary Clinton, as if that story has anything to do with the facts of the Trump presidency. If there’s good reason to investigate or prosecute Hillary Clinton, I’m all for it. But even if Clinton had the book thrown at her, it would not affect the investigations into Trump. In reality, they are independent variables. But in the gaseous world of shout shows and Twitter, they are somehow linked. The binary, seesaw logic of the election still holds that if Hillary is down, Trump is up. It’s all so otherworldly.
All the more so because it was Donald Trump who said after he was elected that Hillary had “suffered enough”:
President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team signaled Tuesday that his administration will not pursue further investigations of Hillary Clinton, backing off a vow on the campaign trail to appoint a special counsel to probe his Democratic rival’s secret email setup as secretary of state and suspected pay-to-play deals involving her family’s foundation.
Mr. Trump labeled Mrs. Clinton “Crooked Hillary” and made charges that she was a corrupt scofflaw a cornerstone of his campaign. The boisterous crowds at this rallies, convinced Mrs. Clinton belonged in prison, regularly broke into chants of “lock her up!”
But the president-elect struck a very different tone Tuesday, arguing that Mrs. Clinton had suffered enough and the country needed to heal.
“I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with the New York Times. “She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways.” He also said the Clinton Foundation has done “good work” [emphasis added].
When Trump said this, there was some grumbling among hardcore Trump supporters. For instance, Peter Schweizer said that Trump shouldn’t even be commenting on a potential criminal investigation. But for the most part, the decision was spun as a sign that the president wanted to be a “president for all.” Now the president is insinuating that Sessions needs to go because he’s refused to prosecute Hillary Clinton, even though the president had made it clear he didn’t want her to be prosecuted.
In other words, whether appropriate or not, the attorney general loyally followed the president’s wishes and now Trump’s stated — as opposed to real — reason for why Sessions should go is that he didn’t contravene the president’s stated desire. It’s all obvious nonsense. But that hasn’t stopped some people from pretending that this a serious argument, because for them the election is never over, and the only enduring principle is that Trump must always “win.”