E.J. Dionne is always thought-provoking, but his column yesterday about the collapse of (small-d) democratic norms at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue–and especially his description of the President’s current twitter storm attacking Jeff Sessions–was, as the saying goes, “dead on.”
Trump’s latest perverse miracle is that he has progressives — along with everyone else who cares about the rule of law — rooting for Sessions. The attorney general is as wrong as ever on voter suppression, civil rights enforcement and immigration. But Sessions did one very important thing: He obeyed the law.
When it was clear that he would have obvious conflicts of interest in the investigation of Russian meddling in our election and its possible links to the Trump campaign, Sessions recused himself, as he was required to do.
Trump’s attacks on Sessions for that recusal are thus a naked admission that he wants the nation’s top lawyer to act illegally if that’s what it takes to protect the president and his family.
My only quibble with this analysis is the assumption– implicit in the description–that Trump understands the difference between legality and illegality. His entire career calls into question his comprehension of law as distinct from power.
To the extent that his mental processes could be called “thought,” it appears that Trump approaches law as the ability to wield authority. The central notion of the rule of law–that no one is above the law, that rules are created in conformance with certain standards of fundamental fairness, and that they apply to everyone, irrespective of wealth or status–is clearly outside his comprehension.
Even Sessions–a contemptible bigot who has spent much of his professional life opposed to rational policies if they advanced equal rights–understood his obligation to remove himself from a situation in which he had an obvious conflict of interest.
Gail Collins summed up the situation with her usual mordant humor:
Now Trump wants Sessions gone so he can replace him with an attorney general who will fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Sessions can’t do it because he recused himself from all things Russia-related.
Mueller’s probe into the Trump camp’s relationship with Russia terrifies the president, especially if it involves an investigation of Trump family finances. So obviously, we are rooting for Sessions to stay right where he is … and, um, keep persecuting immigrants, ratchet up imprisonments for nonviolent crimes and maybe go back to his old dream of imposing the death penalty on marijuana dealers.
Well, I told you this was about irony.
In just over six months, Trump has the whole country rooting for the lesser of two evils….a “perverse miracle” indeed.