Right now, a team of top-notch criminal investigators is sifting through each and every skeleton in Donald Trump’s many closets. They’re picking through his finances, interrogating his friends, combing through every detail of his earliest days in the Oval Office — all while drawing on the resources of the federal government he runs. It’s a nightmare; an especially cruel Twilight Zone twist ending: Right after securing the most powerful position in the American state, Trump has never been more vulnerable to the whims of public officials he can’t control.
And none of this even would have happened if Jeff Beauregard Sessions hadn’t put legal ethics above loyalty to the president. If the attorney general had simply refused to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, his deputy Rod Rosenstein never would have been able to appoint Robert Mueller. The “fake news” media would have hemmed and hawed — but “norms” and “rule of law” — and then some new shiny object would have captured the Fourth Estate’s goldfish brain; the Comey firing would have been forgotten; and being president would have been great again.
This line of thought flashed through Trump’s mind several times this summer, as Robert Mueller’s probe kicked up unnerving headlines. In July, the president’s fury proved too potent to keep private. Trump lambasted Sessions’s “very unfair” decision to recuse himself (from an investigation that he was, himself, a subject of). He expressed his disappointment in the attorney general’s loyalty in press interviews, and lamented Sessions’s weakness on Twitter. Rumors of a pending resignation spread.
On Thursday, the New York Times revealed that Sessions did, in fact, tender his resignation — but that Trump was persuaded by his advisers not to accept it, while the attorney general remained too enamored with his power over federal immigration policy to force the issue.
A little over a week ago, Sessions’s calculus seemed to have paid off. Despite the objections of many in Trump’s cabinet — and the ambivalence of the president himself — the attorney general convinced Trump to end Obama’s Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals program, and subject 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants to the threat of deportation.
But now, Trump is discussing “amnesty” deals with Chuck and Nancy — and, suddenly, close confidantes of the attorney general are leaking intimate details of White House conversations to the Times:
Shortly after learning in May that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate links between his campaign associates and Russia, President Trump berated Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an Oval Office meeting and said the attorney general should resign, according to current and former administration officials and others briefed on the matter.
The president’s outburst came in the middle of an Oval Office meeting Mr. Trump had with top advisers on May 17, to discuss candidates to take over the F.B.I. after the president fired its director, James B. Comey, earlier that month. In addition to Mr. Sessions, Vice President Mike Pence, Donald F. McGahn III, the White House counsel, and several other aides attended the meeting.
In the middle of the meeting, Mr. McGahn received a phone call from Rod J. Rosenstein … In the telephone call to Mr. McGahn, Mr. Rosenstein said he had decided to appoint Mr. Mueller to be a special counsel for the investigation … When the phone call ended, Mr. McGahn relayed the news to the president and his aides. Almost immediately, Mr. Trump lobbed a volley of insults at Mr. Sessions, telling the attorney general it was his fault they were in the current situation. Mr. Trump told Mr. Sessions that choosing him to be attorney general was one of the worst decisions he had made, called him an “idiot,” and said that he should resign.
An emotional Mr. Sessions told the president he would resign and left the Oval Office.
Notably, the attorney general is currently spearheading a crackdown on the Trump administration’s leakers. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster recently drafted a memo demanding that every agency of the government take anti-leak measures (we know this because the memo leaked).
This White House runs like a fine-tuned machine.