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Morning Briefing: This Business with Jeff Sessions Is Incredibly Unsettling

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | November 14, 2017 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | November 14, 2017 |

There’s been a lot of business in the last day over Don Jr.’s Twitter DM exchanges with Wikileaks thanks to a Julia Ioffe over on The Atlantic, and I’m not entirely sure where that’s going to lead us, but it certainly proves that there was some contact between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks, which the White House has repeatedly denied (there are other emails also showing that Don Jr. acted on the information he gained from these DMs). To prove that the exchanges were no big deal, Don Jr. also released them, which is about as clever as you’d expect from this guy:

I am not as interested in that today as I am in what’s going on with Jeff Sessions, because it’s terrifying. Look: The President is not supposed to involve himself in the affairs of the DOJ. There should be a wall between the DOJ and the White House, for obvious reasons.

However, ten days ago, Trump expressed disappointment in the DOJ for failing to go after his political opponents. Yesterday, we found out that Jeff Sessions has decided to look into whether a special prosecutor should be appointed to look into the Clinton Foundation and that Uranium One deal.

Never mind the fact that there is nothing to the Uranium One deal — it’s a conspiracy theory that has been repeatedly debunked — the most troubling thing here is that Sessions acted on the President’s wishes. What’s even more troubling is that Sessions did so to save his job.

People close to the White House said there might be another issue at play: Mr. Sessions might be able to forestall the president’s firing him by appointing a special counsel to investigate the uranium deal.

And the thing is, Sessions should be afraid. Trump has wanted to fire him ever since Sessions recused himself from the Russia business, and every time Mueller finds something else on the White House, Trump gets angrier. The tea leaves for Sessions do not look good, either. For one, there’s been a lot of discussion of replacing Roy Moore with Jeff Sessions, if Alabama actually does elect Moore next month. For another:

One commentator in particular, the Fox News host Jeanine Pirro — who is a friend of Mr. Trump’s and whose show he rarely misses — has aggressively denounced Mr. Sessions as weak for not investigating the uranium deal. In addition to making scathing critiques on her show, Ms. Pirro — who had interviewed to be the deputy attorney general, according to three transition officials — recently met with the president to excoriate the attorney general.

In an Oval Office meeting on Nov. 1, Ms. Pirro said that a special counsel needed to be appointed, according to two people briefed on the discussion. Through a Fox News spokeswoman, Ms. Pirro said, “Everything I said to President Trump is exactly what I’ve vocalized on my show, ‘Justice with Jeanine.’”

And here’s the thing:

Jeanine Pirro does not like Sessions. She also does not like Hillary (she was a big champion of the “lock her up” chant). Importantly, she also does not like Mueller. Here’s what she said not so long ago on her Fox News show: “Special Counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller must be fired immediately. His role as head of the FBI during the uranium deal and the Russian extortion case, his friendship with Jim Comey, demand his firing.”

You see the groundwork that’s being put down here, right? Fire Sessions or ship him back to Alabama, maybe bring in Jeanine Pirro to replace him, fire Bob Mueller, and use the DOJ to go after political enemies. With Pirro in, Trump doesn’t even have to ask the DOJ to go after his enemies: She’ll do it on her own volition.

And even if that is not the long game, the short game is to use Sessions’ fear of being fired to go after political enemies. Will they find anything? Probably not. Does it matter? Not really. It refocuses the spotlight on Clinton and Obama, maybe just enough to provide cover for Trump to have Mueller fired.

It’s all very unsettling, and yet another instance where Constitutional norms are being eroded. Using the power of the judicial branch to go after political enemies is a Putin move. If he does this to Clinton and Obama, what’s to stop him from doing the same thing when he’s faced with a Democratic opponent in 2020. That’s essentially what the Republican Congress did with Hillary’s emails; in 2020, they’d have cooperation from the White House.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.