TrumpWatch, Day 496: “Unforced Betrayal” — Trump Continues Attack on Attorney General Sessions

Donald Trump talks with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, May 2017 (Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump unsettled by another revelation over possible obstruction of justice


Developments on Day 496 of the Trump Administration:

See VideoCast: Trump Imposes Tariffs on Canada, Mexico, & European Allies
VideoCast with CNN: “Act 27” — Trump’s Latest Attempt to Block Russia Investigation

Will Trump Now Fire Sessions?

Continuing his campaign to bury the Trump-Russia investigation, Donald Trump turns his fire on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump was triggered on Wednesday by another revelation of his possible obstruction of justice — a demand in March 2017 that Sessions reverse his recusal from the investigation.

Sessions had been forced to step aside because of meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016, when the future Attorney General was a senior Trump campaign advisor, and failure to declare the contacts in his confirmation hearings.

Days later, Trump berated Sessions over dinner at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The incident is now being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as are Trump’s recurrent public insults and private attacks on the Attorney General.

But far from stepping back yesterday, Trump immediately went on Twitter to say that he wished he had picked a “good lawyer” rather than Sessions, a US Senator from Alabama and former judge.

Last evening, Trump fired a good-night shot, courtesy of a TV appearance by Joe DiGenova, whom Trump tried — but failed — to bring onto his White House legal team in March:

Facing the recurrent possibility of another political and Constitutional crisis with the firing of Sessions — possibly opening the way for Trump to dismiss Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and then Mueller — Trump’s spokesman and attorney Rudy Giuliani tried to limit the assault:

There’s no doubt he’s complained about him; there’s no doubt he has some grievances. He’s not going to fire him before this is over.

Nor do I think he should.

The Demise of “Spygate”

But the episode showed Trump’s frustration that his latest attempt to undermine the Trump-Russia inquiry has run into trouble.

Trump and his allies have spent weeks pressing the false line that the FBI put a “spy” inside the Trump campaign in 2016.

In fact, the FBI was working with a UK-based American academic, Stefan Halper, who spoke with three Trump campaign officials: Carter Page, under scrutiny by the FBI as a possible Russian agent since 2013; George Papadopoulos, who was working with a Kremlin-linked, London-based academic to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and possibly to receive “thousands” of e-mails linked to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton; and Sam Clovis, the campaign’s co-manager who brought in both Page and Papadopoulos.

Trump’s manufactured “Spygate” paid off last week with a Justice Department briefing, showing classified information, to GOP legislators.

But the effort — and the prospect of punishment of the FBI, the Justice Department, and Mueller — immediately fell apart when the legislators did not give the necessary support to “Spygate”.

On Tuesday, one of the legislators, Trey Gowdy, pointedly said in a TV interview: “I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got.”

Gowdy later put out his line, “There are lots of really good lawyers in the country, he could have picked somebody else [other than Sessions”, leading to Trump’s outburst on Wednesday morning.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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