President Donald Trump has finally sacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The only upside to this development is that it ends the grotesque public humiliation of a man of honor and courage. Trump persuaded himself that Sessions was fungible, in order to justify scapegoating him for the special counsel investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign. Trump was wrong about Sessions’s disposability, and wrong to blame him for the appointment of a special counsel, which was triggered by Trump’s own impetuous firing of FBI director James Comey. Now that same willfulness threatens the Trump agenda and, possibly, the integrity of the justice system itself.
Trump won the presidency by promising to restore the rule of immigration law after decades of bipartisan neglect. Sessions, serving as a senator from Alabama in 2016, was uniquely positioned to do so. No politician had devoted as much time to documenting the corrosive effects of low-skilled mass immigration on the country’s working class. Sessions was a nationalist long before Trump came on the scene. He knew the myriad tactics through which the nation’s career bureaucrats and immigration advocates had abetted mass illegal entry, and set out to block them. As attorney general, he used every lawful tool available to his office to fight the sanctuary-city movement, whereby local jurisdictions openly defy the federal government’s efforts to protect the public from illegal-alien criminals. Scofflaw cities and states across the country responded with a spate of lawsuits against Sessions; left-wing judges slapped the Justice Department with questionable nationwide injunctions to protect the sanctuary jurisdictions. Sessions sued right back. Sheriffs, the closest to the ground when it comes to public sentiment about law enforcement, understood what was at stake. “Jeff Sessions has probably been the most effective attorney general in the eyes of law enforcement in our nation’s history,” National Sheriffs’ Association executive director Jonathan Thompson told the Huffington Post in August 2018.
The open-borders immigration bar had turned the asylum process into a mechanism for gaining immediate entry into the country, followed by immediate disappearance into the hinterland and absorption into the mass of untold millions of illegal immigrants. The Obama administration had declared domestic violence a ground for asylum, even though asylum is a response to state oppression. Sessions restored its original meaning. He declared an end to catch-and-release at the border, instead ordering the detention of all illegal crossers until they could be processed for deportation. That new zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry triggered the “child separation” PR debacle this summer. But even the Obama administration had railed against the politicized court rulings that led to the media-created “emergency” of child separations. Sessions was right to order the detention of all illegal crossers—including families—which is the best deterrent against illegal entry.
Sessions added new immigration judges to speed deportation cases, and was instrumental in the recent decades-overdue initiative to abolish birthright citizenship—something almost no other country on earth grants to illegal aliens. While Trump called MS-13 murderers “animals,” Sessions actually did something about the vicious gang by ordering U.S. attorneys to pursue prosecutions aggressively.
Trump may have been blind to Sessions’s success in undoing the damage done by previous administrations, but the Left recognized his effectiveness and paid him unwilling tribute. “He knows where the levers are,” observed Vanita Gupta, Obama’s head of the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, in August. “It feels sometimes like he has a checklist of everything the prior administration accomplished to advance civil rights that has served as a blueprint for him to undo.”
That blueprint extended to violent crime. The phony “mass incarceration” meme would no longer be used to limit the federal prosecution of drive-by shooters, armed robbers, and predatory drug dealers, as it had under the Obama Justice Department. Sessions halted the reflexive use of crippling federal-consent decrees against the nation’s police departments, and eloquently articulated the value of law enforcement to the law-abiding residents of high-crime communities. Though it is too soon to be definitive about a cause, the rise in the nation’s homicide rate since 2014 slowed down in 2017.
But Sessions’s most valuable service to America was protecting the integrity of the justice system against Trump’s efforts to politicize it. Trump publicly pressured Sessions to use the fearsome powers of the Justice Department to punish his political enemies, starting with the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton, concerning her e-mail server. Also on Trump’s target list were James Comey, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and former FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Trump complained that Sessions had asked the Justice Department’s inspector general, rather than DOJ lawyers, to investigate charges that the FBI had abused the FISA process in the Russia investigation. But Sessions’s decisions to let the ongoing investigations run their course, and to abide by the findings of previous investigations, were both correct and in accord with the rule of law. Absent conclusive findings of corruption and malfeasance, the workings of our justice system must be respected. Trump’s impulse to interfere when the outcome of an investigation is not to his liking would, if realized, end this country’s primary advantage in the global realm: an independent and professional justice system.
Sessions had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, due to his previous interactions with Russia’s ambassador, in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Had he not done so, the Left would have impugned any exculpatory findings as a sham. Sessions was equally right in resisting Trump’s subsequent political interference. Moreover, such matters as the Clinton emails are trivial compared with the effect of unchecked low-skilled immigration on the nation’s social fabric. A wise leader would look forward, not back, and proceed full-speed ahead with his political agenda.
The Wall Street Journal has published a list of possible replacements for the new attorney general allegedly under consideration. None of them comes remotely close to possessing Sessions’s knowledge of immigration or determination to usher in a rational immigration policy based on American needs. Among the names—Alex Azar, William Barr, Pam Bondi, Rudolph Giuliani, Chris Christie, and acting AG Matt Whitaker—Giuliani has the deepest understanding of policing and crime. Yet Giuliani, it’s worth noting, defended New York City’s sanctuary law while he was mayor.
If Trump persuades the acting or next confirmed attorney general to disband the special counsel investigation, he will likely trigger a constitutional crisis. In firing Jeff Sessions, he has already cast doubt on his own commitment to his electoral mandate.
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