Normally there’s a bit of a news lull after an election while everyone gets a sense of the new lay of the land. Unsurprisingly, US president Donald Trump wasn’t into self-reflection at the news that he had just lost the House to the Democrats.
Instead he warmed up by ramping up his rhetoric about the media being enemies of the people (including suspending the White House access pass for CNN’s chief political correspondent Jim Acosta on the spurious grounds that he assaulted a White House intern), praised Fox News for doing an “incredible job” for the Republican Party during the election, and also “accepted” the “resignation” of his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.
Sessions chose to resign in much the same way that passengers on the Titanic chose to go for a cheeky midnight dip, and brings to an end one of the most one-sided love stories of the Trump era.
Sessions was one of the very first Republicans to get on board the Trump express – endorsing the then-nominee back in February 2016 with the memorable quote “this isn’t a campaign, this is a movement”.
For that, and his support throughout the primaries and the eventual campa-sorry, movement, he was made attorney general following the election in November that year.
Unfortunately Sessions had been asked about knowledge of Russian interference in the election by then-senator Al Franken during his confirmation hearings, at which point he’d said “I’m not aware of any of those activities.” Problematically, just under a month after being sworn in, he was revealed to have had spoken twice to the Russian ambassador to the US.
Thus, when the Justice Department began rumbling with rumours of an investigation into Russian interference, Sessions recused himself from any involvement. As far as Trump was concerned, Sessions not being able to shut down any such investigation rather defeated the entire point of having an attorney general.
By May Trump was openly accusing Sessions of “disloyalty” for obeying the rule of law rather than protecting the president from legal challenges. By July he was telling reporters “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”
And as the investigation went on, so did Trump.
By September the internationally respected investigative reporter Bob Woodward was quoting the president in his book Fear: Trump in the White House as having described Sessions as “mentally retarded” and “a dumb Southerner” – which Trump somewhat implausibly denied.
And as such Sessions is a powerful reminder for everyone who has ever worked for a boss that openly hates them: things aren’t going to get better, no matter how unwavering your support and unquestioning your loyalty, and really you should just raid the stationery cupboard before throwing a lit match over your shoulder on the way out.
Still, now it frees up Jeff’s time for other important work…