The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

President Ingrate

A quick observation about President Trump’s criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. While we had heard reports of tensions between them about the recusal in the spring, this latest bit of public criticism seemed to flare up without any warning, didn’t it? Perhaps it’s just exasperation over television coverage of the Russia investigation. And technically, someone else brought it up; when Trump declared in his interview with New York Times reporters that a special counsel should never have been named, they asked, “Was that [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions’s mistake or [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein’s mistake?”

But Trump certainly seemed intent upon beating this drum for the past few days. What if it’s something else? Wouldn’t it make more sense if there had been some particular trigger for Trump suddenly focusing so much of his ire on Sessions publicly?

Is there some other disagreement between the two men that we haven’t heard about yet? Or is it as simple as Trump really wants to fire Mueller, but he doesn’t want to deal with the firestorm that would follow if Trump ordered Rosenstein to do so? (Sessions presumably cannot or is unwilling to fire Mueller because of his recusal.)

Either way, Trump has demonstrated he ranks among the world’s biggest ingrates.

Mr. Sessions was the first U.S. senator to back Mr. Trump, a decision that was seen as a major blow to rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas). The endorsement came ahead of a handful of primary contests in Southern states with large numbers of evangelical voters—including Alabama, Mr. Sessions’s home—that Mr. Cruz’s campaign had banked on winning.

Mr. Sessions’s endorsement came at a rally in Alabama, one of the biggest of the campaign.

“When they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday, recalling the endorsement. “I had 40,000 people. He was a senator from Alabama. I won the state by a lot, massive numbers. A lot of the states I won by massive numbers. But he was a senator, he looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ‘What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me. So it’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement. But I’m very disappointed in Jeff Sessions.”

Really? Let’s go to the way-back machine and see how the Sessions endorsement was covered in, say, Politico (emphasis added):

While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who threw his support behind Trump on Friday, is a pillar of the GOP establishment, Sessions is a tea party idol who helps validate the New York City billionaire with the conservative grassroots.

Sessions’ endorsement is a major blow to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose success may hinge on winning those Tea Party and evangelical voters — and who has so often cited Sessions as an ally in his fight against the 2013 immigration reform effort.

All of a sudden, Breitbart.com has become fascinating reading, as their favorite president lashes out at their favorite senator. Matt Boyle:

 . . . before there was a Trump administration, Sessions was a critical part of the “movement” that elected Trump to the presidency. Losing Sessions could endanger the administration and the split the critical coalition that helped Trump to the presidency. Doing that is something Trump supporters nationwide do not want to see—and in fact, with all the reports of Trump being upset after he fired Gen. Mike Flynn earlier this year, it might be wise for the president to slow down and think about this one before he fires away too harshly and quickly.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but… give the crew at Breitbart credit. They’re less of a cult of personality than their critics suspected. Of course, the fact that they have to write these save-Sessions pieces reveals that the president that they glorified and deified for nearly two years has no loyalty to anyone, no principles, no foresight, no understanding of the role of the attorney general in the U.S. government, and not even much grasp of his own interests. If only someone had warned them!

The Increasingly Bizarre Criminal Investigation of Schultz’s IT Aide

I’m not saying it’s more exciting or important than a president throwing a public tantrum against his own attorney general, but could the national media at least briefly turn its attention to the increasingly bizarre charges surrounding that staffer of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and his family?

Back in February, five House staffers were accused of “stealing equipment from members’ offices without their knowledge and committing serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network.”

A few days later, another odd twist was revealed, as at least four of the accused staffers are related: Imran Awan, his wife Hina Alvi, Abid Awan and Jamal Awan.

Imran Awan was first employed on Capitol Hill by former Rep. Robert Wexler in January 2004 as an “information technology director.” Awan has worked for at least 25 other House Democrats since that time as a shared employee providing technical support including to previous House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, currently the California attorney general.

Then it got even weirder in late May, when Wasserman Schultz had a tense exchange with the U.S. Capitol Police chief during a hearing, appearing to threaten “consequences” over the police’s refusal to return equipment belonging to her that is presumably connected to this investigation.

Wasserman Schultz: “Under my understanding the Capitol Police is not able to confiscate members’ equipment when the member is not under investigation. It is their equipment and it’s supposed to be returned.”

Verderosa: “I think there’s extenuating circumstances in this case, and I think that working through my counsel and the necessary personnel, if that in fact is the case, and with the permission of, through the investigation, then we’ll return the equipment. But until that’s accomplished I can’t return the equipment.”

Wasserman Schultz: “I think you’re violating the rules when you conduct your business that way and should expect that there would be consequences.”

In a public hearing, a member of the appropriations committee that controls funding for the U.S. Capitol Police appears to be telling the chief to give her stuff back or suffer consequences!

This week, the case took another dramatic turn when the FBI arrested Imran Awan Monday evening as he was about to board a flight to Lahore, Pakistan.

Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, were accused of lying about a housing equity loan to pilfer $165,000 from the Congressional Federal Credit Union, according to documents filed in the District of Columbia. The couple obtained the loan for a rental property – rather than a primary residence. That money was then wired to Pakistan, documents allege.

Alvi left the country suddenly in March. She pulled their three children from school and flew to Lahore, Pakistan, with “numerous pieces of luggage” and at least $12,000 cash. Investigators believe Awan was ready to do the same with a Monday flight bound for Pakistan, court documents show.

One final utterly bizarre oddity: Wasserman Schultz had him on staff until Tuesday.

Why was Wasserman Schultz so impatient to get her computer back from the Capitol Police if it’s relevant to a criminal investigation? Why did she keep Imran Awan on staff until this week? Who’s got the money now? Did a bunch of longtime Capitol Hill IT staffers risk it all for $165,000?

ADDENDA: Just as this e-mail was ready to be sent off to the editors, President Trump provided the media distraction of the day over Twitter: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow.Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming . . . 

Glad to see he’s focused on helping get 50 votes for passage of Obamacare’s repeal in the Senate!

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