Washington Post (Opinion)
By Jennifer Rubin
July 26, 2017
If you thought that President Trump was testing the waters, probing for a backlash, as he contemplated firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and, further, that it might be a really good idea for Republicans to signal strongly that this action (presumably a steppingstone to firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III) would spell the beginning of the end of his presidency, you’d have been distressed by the GOP reaction.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), in what is now his familiar cowardly crouch, declared, “The president gets to decide what his personnel is.” In case that wasn’t sufficiently obsequious, he added: “It’s up to the president to decide what his personnel decision is and any possible fallout that comes from that.” Sessions could hardly have gotten a worse signal, nor Trump a more encouraging one. (Incidentally, the president does not get to decide his Cabinet personnel all by himself. The Senate votes to confirm.) Ryan seems not in the least concerned about the president’s apparent aim to halt Mueller’s investigation.
Frankly, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) did not do much better, if at all. In a written statement (he actually had time to think this through!), he said: “Jeff Sessions is a good man and a fine Attorney General. Jeff is working to keep our streets safe, secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws, and protect our nation. The American people are fortunate to have him as the Attorney General.” Not a peep about firing him. No reminder about the apolitical nature of the Justice Department. No argument against Trump’s ridiculous notion that by following ethical standards, Sessions had harmed the presidency (a specious claim from Trump on Tuesday). Another profile in no courage.
Trump sees everything in terms of personal loyalty, so no rule, no ethical norm can justify what he sees as a failure to defend him (from federal investigators!). Not doing his bidding amounts to betrayal, in Trump’s mind. Moreover, because Trump is not loyal to anyone, he assumes that no one else is motivated by loyalty either. Sessions decided to endorse him, in Trump’s telling, because of the size of Trump’s crowds in Alabama. (There’s that crowd size fixation again!)
My, it would have been grand had some Republican warned Trump that treating the Justice Department as his personal law firm is dangerous and wrong and invites grave legal/political consequences. Justice Department lawyers are the people’s lawyers, not Trump’s personal protection racket. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) came the closest to slapping down the president when he put out a statement reminding the White House, “Prosecutorial decisions should be based on applying facts to the law without hint of political motivation. To do otherwise is to run away from the long-standing American tradition of separating the law from politics regardless of party.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was right to remind his colleagues on Tuesday, “Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the president’s subordinates. We are his equal!” Ryan, Cotton and the vast majority of GOP House and Senate members do not get that. They are afraid of Trump and his cultist followers, afraid of falling out of favor with a Trumpified party that they imagine can be a vehicle for their policies. (How’s that working out so far?) If they cannot bring themselves to forcefully defend a conservative darling, a former Senate colleague and an advocate of many of their policies (which I may vehemently disagree with, but that’s neither here nor there), does anyone imagine that they’ll go to war with Trump if he fired Sessions and then Mueller? I fear that we may find out the disappointing answer as we drift toward a constitutional crisis brought about by weak-kneed Republicans who think they are Trump employees.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com