PD Editorial: President Trump should fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions rather than shame him

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The man once known for barking “you’re fired” on network TV seems to lack the fortitude to use the words in earnest, at least as it concerns the head of the Department of Justice. Instead, President Donald Trump appears content with denigrating him in tweets and media interviews, possibly in hopes that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the man known for being the first member of the U.S. Senate to support Trump for president, will step down.

But so far Sessions appears to be standing firm — as he should. If Trump wants Sessions out, he should have the courage to sack him himself rather than resort to the kind of shaming that, in a schoolyard context, would be considered cyberbullying.

On Monday, Trump referred to Sessions as “beleaguered.” He continued his assault the following morning by tweeting that Sessions had taken a “very weak position” on investigations concerning Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server at the State Department.

Later in the day, he took at another shot at Sessions during a news conference in the Rose Garden. “I’m very disappointed with the attorney general, but we will see what happens,” Trump said as he stood next to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. “Time will tell. Time will tell.”

Time will certainly tell whether Sessions remains in his job. But there’s no question on what his removal would be all about. It’s not about Clinton emails or being overworked. It’s about Russia. Trump remains incensed that Sessions did the ethical thing and recused himself from any involvement in Justice Department investigations into possible collusion between Trump associates and Russia during the 2016 campaign. And if Trump is successful in replacing him, it can only be viewed as another attempt — in addition to the firing of FBI chief James Comey — at hindering that investigation.

If that happens, what would follow would at best be described as confusion and, at worst, a constitutional crisis.

Given Trump’s rhetoric, whomever succeeds Sessions would clearly have a mandate to at least slow the Russia probe. A new attorney general might even seek to remove Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the investigation. But that’s not likely to happen without a fight, as federal code makes clear that the special counsel may be removed only for “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of Departmental policies.”

What Trump can’t set aside, however, is the mounting evidence of associations between some of his closest advisers and Russian officials during the height of the presidential campaign a year ago. He also can’t escape the evidence that he and those close to him have misled the public in repeatedly claiming that no such ties existed. Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort are scheduled to testify today before the Senate Judiciary Committee about a June 16, 2016 meeting they had with Russian contacts over the prospects of obtaining incriminating evidence against Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s flailing of late has reached the point that he is even considering pardoning himself — an absurd notion that on its face undermines the very purpose of our constitutionally protected system of checks and balances.

If Trump were wise he would conclude that he has little choice but to ride out the Russian investigation and see what comes of it. But the president so far has shown little appetite for such circumspection.

Instead, the country can expect to see Trump test the limits of his presidential authority while our nation as a whole is tested on its tolerance for such nonsense.

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