jeff sessions

Aiding Transgender Case, Sessions Defies His Image on Civil Rights

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has dispatched an experienced federal hate crimes lawyer to Iowa to help prosecute a man charged with murdering a transgender high school student last year, a highly unusual move that officials said was personally initiated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In taking the step, Mr. Sessions, a staunch conservative, is sending a signal that he has made a priority of fighting violence against transgender people individually, even as he has rolled back legal protections for them collectively.

The Justice Department rarely assigns its lawyers to serve as local prosecutors, and only in cases in which they can provide expertise in areas that the federal government views as significant. By doing so in this instance, Mr. Sessions put the weight of the government behind a small-city murder case with overtones of gender identity and sexuality.

Kedarie Johnson, a 16-year-old in Burlington, Iowa, was shot to death in March 2016. Family and friends told local newspapers that he was gay, identified as both male and female and occasionally went by the name Kandicee. Christopher Perras, a Justice Department lawyer, will serve as a county prosecutor in the case, according to court documents filed on Friday.

“This is just one example of the attorney general’s commitment to enforcing the laws enacted by Congress and to protecting the civil rights of all individuals,” said Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for the Justice Department.

Kedarie Johnson, a 16-year-old Iowan who identified as both male and female, was killed last year. The Justice Department is sending an experienced hate crimes lawyer to help prosecute the case.

Nine months into his tenure as the nation’s top law enforcement official, the nuances of Mr. Sessions’s civil rights policy are coming into focus. As a senator from Alabama, Mr. Sessions had spoken out against same-sex marriage and voted against expanding federal hate crimes laws to protect transgender people, and civil rights groups were livid when President Trump nominated him to be attorney general. They predicted he would reverse policies on discrimination, police abuses and other areas.

In many ways, Mr. Sessions has fulfilled those predictions. He declared that the Justice Department no longer considered gay or transgender people to be protected from workplace discrimination and reversed a policy encouraging schools to let transgender students use bathrooms that fit their gender identities. He abandoned objections to voter identification requirements in Texas and signaled that he would not try to force federal oversight on police departments suspected of abuses.

But he has also brought several hate crime cases, including one against a man accused of burning a mosque. He condemned white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va., far more forcefully than the president. And he has vowed tough action against hate crimes, speaking aggressively in ways that few of his most ardent opponents could have predicted. He has tied enforcement of those crimes to his tough stance against violence, a cornerstone of his policies as attorney general.

“Hate crimes are violent crimes,” Mr. Sessions said in a speech in June. He has publicly applauded aggressive hate crime prosecutions, including one in which a Mississippi man received a 49-year prison sentence in the death of a transgender woman. That case was brought in the final weeks of the Obama administration. “No person should have to fear being violently attacked because of who they are, what they believe, or how they worship,” Mr. Sessions said.

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department pushed the boundaries of civil rights, routinely arguing for a broad reading of the law. Mr. Sessions takes a much narrower view. When civil rights laws say “sex,” Mr. Sessions argues, they mean only that — not gender identity or sexual orientation.

Critics and supporters agree that Mr. Sessions is more likely to pursue civil rights matters in individual cases, rather than trying to address larger, systemic issues, as the Obama administration did. He has promised to “punish any police conduct that violates civil rights,” for example, but is skeptical of efforts to force department-wide overhauls. He supports prosecuting those who commit violence against transgender victims but opposes reading the law in a way that broadly extends discrimination protection for transgender people.

“He has no problem with discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q. people in jobs, education and other facets of life, but will lean forward in this one case where a transgender individual has been killed,” said Vanita Gupta, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division in the Obama administration. “While it is of course good that D.O.J. is aggressively pursuing this case, it would behoove Sessions to connect the dots between his policies that promote discrimination and hate that can result in death.”

In March, six House members wrote Mr. Sessions and implored him to investigate a spate of killings of transgender black women. The letter got his attention, and he summoned one of his top civil rights prosecutors to a meeting about it.

Federal law — the one Mr. Sessions opposed in the Senate — makes it a crime to attack someone based on gender identity. Typically, civil rights prosecutors monitor news reports and other public information, looking for signs of a hate crime that would give them reason to investigate.

“That may not be good enough,” Mr. Sessions said, according to an official in attendance.

He ordered civil rights prosecutors and the F.B.I. to review each of the seven cases lawmakers had asked about and to contact local authorities to offer assistance. “A lot of concerns and questions were out there about how this was occurring and what we were doing about it,” Mr. Sessions recalled in his June speech.

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr. Sessions faced pointed questions from some of his former Judiciary Committee colleagues about his views on hate crimes, particularly those involving transgender victims. “The law has been passed. The Congress has spoken,” Mr. Sessions said. “You can be sure I will enforce it.”

Mr. Sessions has invoked that testimony in discussions at the Justice Department, saying that he gave Congress his word and that he intended to keep it, according to one person present, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

As part of its review, the Justice Department opened at least one hate crime investigation, helped process evidence in another case and sent Mr. Perras to Iowa to help prosecute a man, Jorge Sanders-Galvez, accused in Kedarie Johnson’s killing.

Amy K. Beavers, the Des Moines County attorney, told The Des Moines Register on Sunday that Mr. Perras had joined the case because federal prosecutors were considering bringing charges of their own. “The federal authorities are investigating the case as a federal hate crime, and so they would like to be part of the state case for seamless prosecution, should an indictment in federal court be handed down,” she said.

A high-profile test of Mr. Sessions’s views on individual accountability is looming. Last year, Attorney General Loretta Lynch authorized prosecutors to seek civil rights charges against a New York City police officer over the death of Eric Garner. Mr. Garner died in 2014 after the officer put him in a chokehold. His gasps of “I can’t breathe” became a nationwide rallying cry for protesters criticizing police abuses — a movement that Mr. Sessions criticized.

Prosecutors have been building their case before a grand jury, with an eye toward what would be one of the highest-profile police abuse indictments in years.


Sessions: Trump hasn’t apologized for Twitter criticism

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday that President Donald Trump hasn’t apologized for publicly criticizing him on Twitter last month, but that “he has a right to scold his Cabinet members if he’s not happy with them.”

Asked on NBC’s “Today Show” if Trump has apologized, Sessions said he had not. He said Trump “was quite frank about his concerns” and had expressed them.

Trump has seethed at Sessions, his one-time close ally, since the attorney general recused himself from the probe into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election. The president viewed that decision as disloyal — the most grievous sin in Trump’s orbit.

In an unprecedented display of a president publicly criticizing a sitting member of his own Cabinet, Trump unleashed repeated attacks via Twitter.

He called Sessions “beleaguered” and “very weak” and belittled his decision not to investigate Hillary Clinton. He said he was “disappointed” in Sessions and suggested that, had he known he would recuse himself, he never would had offered him the attorney general post. And he dismissed the value in Sessions’ early endorsement — he was the first senator to back Trump — while privately musing to aides about firing the attorney general.

“We will see what happens,” Trump said of Sessions’ future when asked at a news conference last week. “Time will well. Time will tell.”

Sessions was meeting with Trump and FBI leaders Monday about racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

On CBS’s “This Morning,” Sessions said his relationship with Trump is now “considerably better” and he looks forward to the meeting. He repeated that he’ll serve as long as Trump wants him.

Sessions Says ‘Evil Attack’ in Virginia Is Domestic Terrorism

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Monday that the “evil attack” in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend meets the legal definition of an act of domestic terrorism, an early declaration in an investigation after a car plowed into a crowd of protesters.

“It does meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute,” Mr. Sessions said on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” referring to a fatal attack on Saturday when a vehicle drove into a crowd protesting white nationalists, killing one woman and injuring others. A 20-year-old man has been arrested and charged by Virginia authorities with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in a death.

“You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation toward the most serious charges that can be brought because this is unequivocally an unacceptable evil attack,” Mr. Sessions said, adding that terrorism and civil rights investigators were working on the case.

Mr. Sessions appeared on several morning news shows on Monday, condemning the violent demonstrations over the removal of a Confederate monument and defending President Trump’s response.

Mr. Trump has been reluctant to criticize white supremacists for the weekend’s bloody protests in Charlottesville. The attorney general’s remarks were notable for being more specific and direct than the president’s in condemning the alt-right, a loose collective of far-right activists, some of whom espouse racist and anti-Semitic views.

Mr. Sessions, who is coming off weeks of pointed criticism from Mr. Trump over his performance as attorney general, was pressed to explain why the president had not forcefully condemned white nationalism.

Mr. Sessions said the president had done so, but he was referring to an unattributed White House statement on Sunday that condemned “white supremacists,” not to comments Mr. Trump made publicly.

“He said that yesterday, his spokesman did,” Mr. Sessions said on ABC.

“It came from the White House,” Mr. Sessions said on NBC’s “Today” show. “It was authorized.”

“I think we’re making too much of this,” Mr. Sessions added on “CBS This Morning.”

As United States attorney in Alabama, Mr. Sessions was accused decades ago of making racist comments, something he has denied. But critics again assailed him as racist during his Senate confirmation.

But Mr. Sessions’s record on law and order suggests a more nuanced view.

“I’ve always said he’s good on criminal civil rights enforcement, on hate crimes. I think he really cares about it,” said Vanita Gupta, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Ms. Gupta was head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division during the Obama administration. “The problem is, he’s completely unwilling to address systemic problems.”

Mr. Trump was scheduled to meet in Washington later Monday with Mr. Sessions and the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, about the Charlottesville incident, the White House said. Mr. Trump has been on vacation in New Jersey. Mr. Sessions said that Mr. Trump would speak “to the people” later on Monday.

The “domestic terrorism” language is largely symbolic — many of the law’s stiffest penalties are for international terrorism that do not apply domestically. But the debate over language has raged for more than a decade, as Muslim groups in particular argue that the word terrorism is used only when the attackers are Muslim.

By declaring the attack to be domestic terrorism, Mr. Sessions is moving quickly to quell a debate that swirled after the 2015 shooting of a historically black church in South Carolina. Dylann S. Roof, a South Carolina man who had once worn white supremacist patches, killed nine people in that attack. Loretta E. Lynch, the attorney general at the time, declared hate crimes “the original domestic terrorism.” But some civil rights groups wanted her to go farther.

Under federal law that was expanded after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a violation of federal or state criminal law qualifies as domestic terrorism if it appears to be intended to coerce or intimidate a civilian population or to coerce the policy of the government. But domestic terrorism carries no additional penalties. Investigators rely on charges like murder and assault in prosecuting these crimes.

The Justice Department announced over the weekend that it was opening a civil rights investigation into the Charlottesville incident.

‘We Must Call Evil by Its Name’: Republicans Criticize Trump, Jeff Sessions for Ignoring White Supremacists in Charlottesville Statements

Donald Trump did not hesitate to compare U.S. intelligence officers to Nazis but after white nationalists waving the Nazi flag erupted in violent clashes throughout downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, the president failed to call out racists and chide white supremacists — even after a car plowed into a group of anti-racists protesters, killing at least one person.

A spokesperson for the University of Virginia Hospital cited one death and at least 35 injured on Saturday afternoon, the violent aftermath of a what appears to be a deliberate attack. White supremacists gathered near the college campus to protest the removal of a Confederate statute. Self-identified “alt-right” protesters —a key constituency of Trump’s base made up mostly of white men— marched through the campus carrying tiki torches Friday night.

“It’s been going on for a long time in our country, not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, it’s been going on for a long, long time,” Trump said in a televised statement from New Jersey on Saturday. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides ― on many sides.”

We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017

Hardly the high mark of rhetoric, Trump went on to boast about the economy — without once mentioning the reason for the rally or the car accident. “We wanna get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville and we want to study it,” he continued. “We want to see what we’re doing wrong as a country where things like this can happen.”

“It has no place in America,” he added. “What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”

What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.#Charlottesville

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017

Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, echoed his hollow sentiments on Twitter:

I stand with @POTUS against hate & violence. U.S is greatest when we join together & oppose those seeking to divide us. #Charlottesville

— Vice President Pence (@VP) August 12, 2017


The nation’s top cop, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, also failed to make any mention of racism or white nationalists:

“We stand united behind the President in condemning the violence in Charlottesville and any message of hate and intolerance,” Sessions said in a statement. “This violence is totally contrary to American values and can never be tolerated.”

By contrast, other Republicans were blunt and forceful in their condemnation of the racist rally:

The white supremacists and their bigotry do not represent our great country. All Americans should condemn this vile hatred. #Charlottesville

— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) August 12, 2017


Nothing patriotic about #Nazis,the #KKK or #WhiteSupremacists It’s the direct opposite of what #America seeks to be. #Charlotesville

— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 12, 2017


Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesvillefor what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists

— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 12, 2017


Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.

— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) August 12, 2017


Their tiki torches may be fueled by citronella but their ideas are fueled by hate, & have no place in civil society.

— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) August 12, 2017


What ” WhiteNatjonalist” are doing in Charlottesville is homegrown terrorism that can’t be tolerated anymore that what Any extremist does

— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) August 12, 2017

The hate & bigotry on display in #charlottesville is dangerous & cowardly.

— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) August 12, 2017


The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.

— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) August 12, 2017


This is bigotry. This is racism. These are views we as the American people should reject.

— Steve Daines (@SteveDaines) August 12, 2017


Well, not Ted Cruz:

Americans must stand united in opposing those who aim to divide us through hatred and bigotry

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) August 12, 2017


Sophia Tesfaye is Salon’s Deputy Politics Editor. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

Sessions denounces racial bigotry, hatred after car ramming

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions denounced a deadly car ramming incident in Virginia on Saturday when white nationalist activists and counter-protesters clashed, after President Donald Trump came under sharp criticism for his own tepid response.

Sessions, the top law enforcement official in the country, said “the violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice.”

“When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated,” Sessions added.

The FBI and federal prosecutors have opened a civil rights investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident that killed one woman and wounded 19 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe had already declared a state of emergency to provide more resources to law enforcement when a sedan surged into a crowd of what witnesses said were counter-demonstrators in the picturesque university town.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the Department of Justice during an announcement about leaking of classified information on August 4, 2017. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Some of the injuries from the car ramming were life-threatening. A 20-year-old from Ohio, James Alex Fields, Jr, has been charged with second degree murder, malicious wounding and hit-and-run.

Two responding police officers were killed in a helicopter crash. There was no immediate indication of foul play.

Another 16 people were treated for other injuries linked to the rally, including from “individual engagements,” Charlottesville police chief Al Thomas said. Three people were arrested and charged.

Trump, speaking from his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, said “we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

Critics focused on the president apparently equating the violence of white supremacist protesters with that of anti-fascist activists.

The president stopped short of condemning white nationalist and supremacist groups, which broadly supported Trump in last year’s election.

David Duke, a former “grand wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan who had been a key figure at the rally, urged Trump to “remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”

The president was quickly criticized by liberals such as his 2016 election opponent Hillary Clinton, who did not name Trump but tweeted that “Every minute we allow this to persist through tacit encouragement or inaction is a disgrace, & corrosive to our values.”

But some prominent Republicans were more direct.

Senator Ted Cruz, who lost a campaign to become the Republican presidential nominee, called on the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute the incident as an “act of domestic terrorism.”

Battle lines form between white nationalists and antifa protesters at the entrance to Emancipation Park during the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

“Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted.

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the longest-serving Republican senator in US history, said: “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”

McAuliffe, a potential Democratic presidential candidate in the 2020 elections, said: “I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came in to Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple. Go home.”

Downtown Charlottesville was almost deserted by late afternoon — aside from a heavy security presence — but the city council authorized the police chief to impose a curfew, if necessary.

Leak Investigations Triple Under Trump, Sessions Says

Washington — Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Friday that the Justice Department was now pursuing three times as many leak investigations as the previous administration, a significant devotion of law enforcement resources to hunt down the sources of unauthorized disclosures of information that have plagued the Trump administration.

Mr. Sessions vowed that the Justice Department would not hesitate to bring criminal charges against people who had leaked classified information. He also announced that the F.B.I. had created a new counterintelligence unit to manage these cases.

“I strongly agree with the president and condemn in the strongest terms the staggering number of leaks,” he said. The announcement by Mr. Sessions comes 10 days after President Trump publicly accused him of being “very” weak on pursuing these investigations in a post on Twitter.

The Sessions news conference came against the backdrop of repeated pressure by Mr. Trump, in public and in private, for the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to hunt down people inside the government who have been telling reporters what was happening behind closed doors.

Mr. Sessions was joined in the news conference by Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.

The Trump administration has been bedeviled by leaks large and small that have disclosed infighting inside his administration, including the president’s rancorous phone conversations with foreign leaders. Information shared with reporters brought to light what surveillance showed about contacts by Mr. Trump’s associates with Russia and even what Mr. Trump said to Russian visitors in the Oval Office about his firing of James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director.

Not all leaks are illegal, but the Espionage Act and a handful of other federal statutes criminalize the unauthorized disclosure of certain categories of national-security related information.

In February, Mr. Trump said at a news conference that he told Mr. Sessions to look into leaks — an unusual thing to say, since presidents generally try to avoid appearing as if they are asserting political control over law enforcement.

Mr. Comey also wrote in a memo, recounting one of his conversations with Mr. Trump, that the president had told him to consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information.

Mr. Trump has continued to periodically demand a leak crackdown, including criticizing Mr. Sessions in Twitter posts for not doing more. On July 25, for example, the president posted on Twitter, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are emails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”

Once rare, leak cases have become far more common in the 21st century, in part because of electronic trails that make it easier for investigators to determine who had access to a leaked document and was in contact with a reporter. Depending on how they are counted, the Obama administration brought nine or 10 leak-related prosecutions — about twice as many as were brought under all previous presidencies combined.

Allies Warn Trump of Conservative Revolt Unless He Backs Off Sessions

WASHINGTON — For a week, some of President Trump’s top aides have tried to talk him down from his public campaign against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It was exposing tensions within the administration, stirring consternation with the conservative base and setting off a revolt among Senate Republicans incensed over the treatment of a former colleague.

Among those urging Mr. Trump to spare Mr. Sessions have been Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff; Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist; and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, according to officials who asked not to be named describing internal deliberations.

For the White House, the attacks on the attorney general have touched off a serious problem on Capitol Hill when it did not need any other headaches. Senate Republicans who almost never link arms in unison against a president from their party formed a cordon around Mr. Sessions, making it clear that they neither concurred with nor would tolerate Mr. Trump’s repeated threats to the attorney general’s tenure. Senate leaders made clear they would block Mr. Trump from replacing Mr. Sessions if he tried to do so during the coming recess.

“I would hope the public discussion of that would end immediately,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, who said he delivered the message directly to the White House. Those sentiments were echoed publicly by at least a dozen Republican senators, including their top two leaders, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and John Cornyn of Texas. Mr. Sessions’s removal, Mr. Cornyn said, would be “incredibly disruptive.”

By Wednesday afternoon, just hours after the president’s latest broadside against the attorney general, several officials said they thought the storm had passed: Mr. Trump would let Mr. Sessions stay in office, at least for now. If he were going to fire the attorney general, they said, he would have already done so. But his anger was deep, they added, and nothing was certain when it came to the volatile president. Sharing the president’s frustration have been people in his family, some of whom have come under scrutiny in the Russia investigation.

The persistent presidential barrage against Mr. Sessions “says more about President Trump than it does Attorney General Sessions, and to me, it’s a sign of great weakness on the part of President Trump,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “I hope Jeff Sessions doesn’t give in to this humiliation campaign.”

The president’s pique at Mr. Sessions stems from the attorney general’s decision to step aside from overseeing the investigation into Russia’s interference in last year’s election and any possible ties to Mr. Trump’s campaign team because he had been a top campaign surrogate and met with the Russian ambassador himself. After Mr. Sessions’s recusal, his deputy appointed a special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to lead the investigation. A new attorney general could in theory fire Mr. Mueller.

Mr. Trump has not spoken with Mr. Sessions since the president’s public complaints began a week ago. The attorney general was in the White House on Wednesday for a meeting of cabinet-level officials but did not see the president, officials said. Even as he was visiting, Mr. Trump launched a new fusillade against him.

“Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars ($700,000) for his wife’s political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “Drain the Swamp!”

Andrew G. McCabe, a career law enforcement official, took over the F.B.I. after Mr. Trump fired James B. Comey, the bureau director, in May. Mr. McCabe’s wife, Jill, received contributions in 2015 for a State Senate run in Virginia from the state Democratic Party and a political action committee affiliated with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is a close friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton. Ms. McCabe lost the race.

By the afternoon, however, the White House seemed to have subtly moderated the tone, shifting to a more moving-forward message.

“He’s obviously disappointed but also wants the attorney general to continue to focus on the things that the attorney general does,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said, referring to the president. “He wants him to lead the Department of Justice. He wants to do that strongly. He wants him to focus on things like immigration, leaks and a number of other issues, and I think that’s what his focus is at this point.”

Asked why the president would criticize Mr. Sessions without firing him or asking for his resignation, Ms. Sanders said, “Look, you can be disappointed in someone but still want them to continue to do their job.”

Mr. Sessions, who has remained silent since the weekend, seemed to get the message. Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, said the attorney general was close to announcing an investigation into the intelligence leaks that have so angered Mr. Trump.

“I think he’s got a plan that he’s put together, and at some point, I don’t know if it’d be today, tomorrow or next week, he’ll announce that plan,” Mr. Scaramucci said on Fox News.

Mr. Trump began his sustained attack on Mr. Sessions in an interview with The New York Times a week ago. While it was known that he was angry about the recusal, Mr. Sessions made the decision months ago, and it remained unclear why it suddenly came up again. Some advisers said they believed that Mr. Trump’s anger grew as the Russia investigation touched more on his family, and he blamed Mr. Sessions for not protecting him.

The Times reported that Donald Trump Jr. met with Russians during the campaign as part of what he was told was an effort by the Russian government to help his father’s candidacy. Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and now a senior White House adviser, spent two days this week being interviewed in private about his contacts with Russians by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.

Although Mr. Trump often publicly criticizes people in his own circle, Mr. Sessions is someone with a powerful base of support in the Senate. This is partly because Mr. Sessions, who was a senator from Alabama, is a well-liked former colleague with whom many senators remain close. He endured a brutal confirmation in which many of them were forced to vigorously defend him at the behest of Mr. Trump.

But Republicans also fear that the firing of an attorney general in the middle of the Russia investigations would send the country into a political and constitutional tailspin, making it extremely difficult to confirm anyone Mr. Trump nominated to replace him. And they argued that Mr. Trump was jeopardizing his own agenda.

“If you look at so much of what the president of the United States wants to accomplish on his agenda, Sessions is critical to that,” Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would consider any replacement, said in a television interview this week. “And Sessions should remain in office.” In a Twitter message on Wednesday night, Mr. Grassley warned that his committee schedule was full with other nominations: “AG no way.”

Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma agreed, even as he noted that he supports Mr. Trump. “The only area where I disagree with him is he’s got this fight going with Jeff Sessions,” he said, “but let me just say this: There is no one I hold in higher regard. He’s about the most knowledgeable person, compassionate person and honorable person we can have in that job.”

And almost every Republican who has ventured an opinion also agrees that Mr. Sessions was correct in recusing himself. “I think the attorney general is doing a fine job,” Mr. McConnell, whose wife, Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary, serves in the cabinet with Mr. Sessions, said on Tuesday. “And I think he made the right decision to recuse himself from the Russia matter.”

Steve Bannon convinced Sessions to endorse Trump — despite fears it would kill his career

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who for the past several days has been enduring regular attacks from President Donald Trump, was the first Republican senator to endorse Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

As Business Insider writes, a new book about the 2016 campaign reveals that top White House political strategist Steve Bannon — who at the time was the chief of Breitbart News — was the one who convinced Sessions to take the plunge and endorse Trump’s candidacy.

According to reporter Joshua Green’s new book Devil’s Bargain, Sessions was initially reluctant to endorse Trump because he feared the president could not win — and that it would ruin his career in the Senate.

“Trump is a great advocate for our ideas,” Sessions explained to Bannon back in February 2016. “But can he win?”

“100%,” Bannon replied. “If he can stick to your message and personify this stuff, there’s not a doubt in my mind.”


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Bannon then told Sessions that it was a critical time for him to publicly endorse Trump, as it would give him much needed credibility from a figure conservative voters trusted on the issues.

“It’s do or die,” Bannon told him.

Sessions then agreed to make the endorsement — but pointedly said that if Trump couldn’t win the presidency, “it’s all over for me.”

Trump won the election, but Sessions’ position as attorney general seems in jeopardy thanks to the president’s daily attacks on his work as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. In fact, Trump on Tuesday dismissed Sessions’ 2016 endorsement by telling the Wall Street Journal that Sessions was really only attracted to the large crowds Trump was drawing at his rallies.

As Trump Attacks Sessions, Conservative Republicans (White Idiots) Are Waking up to the President They Elected

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is so committed to his draconian white nationalist agenda that he’s willing to allow the president of the United States to repeatedly humiliate, denigrate and demean him in public rather than resign. And the president who made his name growling “You’re fired” every week on his reality TV show is reported to be unable to personally fire anyone in real life so he’s instead displaying what MSNBC’s Chris Hayes has called “titanic levels of passive-aggressiveness” with his constant expressions of “disappointment” in his attorney general.

Donald Trump has always been a big fan of torture and according to Politico, that’s part of the fun for him here:

“He wants to fire him but he doesn’t want the confrontation,” said one adviser who frequently speaks to him. “He doesn’t mind the long negative storyline. He will torture him every single day.”

This person said Trump also wants to see how Sessions will respond to humiliation and has mocked his response so far.

It’s embarrassing to watch at this point. This administration is a bad soap opera on a good day and these two are the rival divas of the moment. But the drama obscures the serious issue that lies at the heat of this dispute. Our president is abusing the powers of his office to try to stop an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential campaign and his own possible complicity in the crime.

It’s not necessary to go over all the weirdness of Trump’s strange affection  for Russian President Vladimir Putin again. This has been well documented and nobody has yet fully explained his motives in any persuasive way. Considering all the evidence of Russian government meddling and the contacts with members of his campaign, investigations are necessary. That Trump cannot seem to grasp this and is so determined to shut down any inquiry only raises the suspicions even higher.

Trump seems to be ordering Sessions to go after Hillary Clinton and James Comey, which is highly inappropriate in itself. Over the weekend, he sent this series of tweets:

So many people are asking why isn’t the A.G. or Special Council looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes. 33,000 e-mails deleted?

So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?

Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign – “quietly working to boost Clinton.” So where is the investigation A.G. @seanhannity

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!

Suggesting that the attorney general go after his defeated rival and the former FBI director and start hunting for leakers among their own ranks is bound to blow back on him. On top of his swipes at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Trump seems to be determined to antagonize the entire Department of Justice and the intelligence community for reasons that are both self-serving and self-destructive.

Trump has been complaining bitterly about people he perceives as disloyal to him; he disparaged Sessions’ early endorsement of his campaign in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, suggesting that it was to Sessions’ advantage, not his own. At a news conference on Tuesday with the prime minister of Lebanon, the president refused to say that he wouldn’t fire Sessions, saying, “Time will tell, time will tell …”

Trump is obviously upset by the revelations about Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner taking that meeting with the Russian lawyer and has reportedly told confidantes that he’s worried about special counsel Robert Mueller getting ahold of his tax returns. Clearly, he is also panicked by the fact that the Russia investigation is now turning to at his family’s finances. Trump told the New York Times that he considers this a “violation,” as if he were unaware until now that law enforcement always follows the facts wherever they lead. This realization that his finances will be scrutinized seems to have unhinged him even more than usual. Believing that he could run for president without serious legal exposure, as may very well be the case, was the craziest thing he’s done — and that’s saying something.

Trump certainly has no understanding of the role the attorney general plays in our system and the requirement that he be independent from exactly this sort of interference. The irony is that during Sessions’ Senate career on the Judiciary Committee he was specifically known for his insistence that officials in the Department of Justice be completely independent of the executive branch, often haranguing nominees on the subject during confirmation hearings. (He memorably did that here to former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates — later fired by Trump for being too independent.)

Most experts speculate that the president believes that driving Sessions from office will allow him to appoint a new A.G. who won’t need to recuse himself or herself from the Russia probe and can then keep a tight leash on the Mueller investigation, or even end it. For a variety of reasons, that’s unlikely. And in the process, Trump is blowing himself up.

We’ve wondered for months what it might take for the president to lose his base of support, and treating a far-right loyalist like Jeff Sessions as his personal doormat might just be it. The right-wing media, starting with Breitbart News, is very unhappy about this. They have reminded their readers that it was Trump who backed away from their religious crusade to put Hillary Clinton in jail. (The congressional committees are following their president’s orders and getting ready to “investigate” Clinton again, so that should appease them a bit.)

Rush Limbaugh said that while he agrees there was no reason for Sessions to recuse himself he’s a by-the-book legal mind and it’s “a little bit discomforting, unseemly for Trump to go after such a loyal supporter this way. Especially when Sessions made it obvious he’s not gonna resign.” The Drudge Report’s banner headline read “Civil War” on Tuesday morning.

Right-wing media is not Trump’s only problem. Republican senators are speaking out as well:

Jeff Sessions is a man of integrity, loyalty, and extraordinary character. 2/3

Jeff Sessions is a friend, former colleague & an honorable person. He’s a man of deep conviction & principle who believes in the rule of law

Members of the Cabinet are also starting to freak out. Erick Erickson reported that he spoke with one Cabinet member who said: “If he can get treated that way, what about the rest of us? … It’s more of a clusterf**k than you even know.” This Cabinet member confirmed that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson  is seriously considering quitting and said that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is also bothered by Trump’s behavior.

Despite his hiring of a new communication director, the president seems to be hurtling more and more out of control, and it’s finally starting to penetrate the right-wing bubble. So far they seem to be most concerned about the mistreatment of one of Trump’s most loyal soldiers. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet that this also demonstrates how little Trump really cares about their agenda.

Sessions is the most effective member of the Trump administration, working day and night to take the nation back to the ’50s — the 1850s. Donald Trump could not care less.

Trump only cares about Trump. It’s amazing it’s taken them this long to see that.

Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

Attorney General Sessions Raises Stakes for Sanctuary Cities


Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned the nation’s cities Tuesday that they will lose millions in grant money if they don’t help federal agents deport suspected undocumented immigrants held in local jails.

It was the latest move in a series of actions directed at what are known as sanctuary cities, which provide less than full cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Far from stepping down — as some thought he might, given several days of criticism from President Trump —Sessions on Tuesday announced new rules for applying for money under a federal grant program that provides roughly $250 million in crime-finding aid to states and local governments.

Related: Fact Check: No Evidence Undocumented Immigrants Commit More Crimes

To qualify for the latest round of grants, local governments must agree that they will notify the Department of Homeland Security at least 48 hours before releasing inmates from local jails when DHS has asked for advance notification about them.

And local governments must allow DHS agents to enter local jails and interview inmates suspected of being in the country illegally.

“So-called sanctuary policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” Sessions said in announcing the new requirements.

“This is what the American people should be able to expect from their cities and states. And these long overdue requirements will help us take down MS-13 and other violent transnational gangs, and make our country safer,” he said.

The Trump administration has been at odds with many major cities over federal detainer requests, issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, asking local police and sheriff’s offices to hold jail inmates for up to 48 hours after they have completed serving their sentences. The requests apply to people here illegally who are convicted of committing local crimes and could be deported after they are released.

On Tuesday night at a campaign-style rally in Youngstown, Ohio, Trump called for a crackdown on sanctuary cities, declaring they should be sanctuaries “for law abiding Americans…not for criminals and gang members that we want the hell out of our country.”

He praised immigration and border patrol agents for “dismantling bloodthirsty criminal gangs,” adding that they’re “not doing it in a politically correct fashion. We’re doing it rough.”

Trump went on to paint a graphic picture of “animals” who are in the U.S. illegally and commit heinous crimes, like taking young girls and, as Trump described it, slicing and dicing them with a knife “because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die.”

In April, a federal judge in California blocked the administration from withholding current grant money from cities that resist cooperation with ICE detainer requests.

Related: Conservative Cities See ‘Sanctuary City’ Term as Scarlet Letter

The policy announced Tuesday appears to avoid the legal battle over detainers, because it does not require cities to hold jail inmates after they have served their sentences. It requires, instead, advance notice before they are released.

Sessions announced the new policy a day after Massachusetts’ highest court delivered what immigration activists called a major defeat to the Trump administration, ruling that state and local law enforcement officials don’t have the authority to detain a “removable” immigrant simply because federal authorities ask them to.

Because deportation is a civil matter, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said Monday, continuing to hold an immigrant who hasn’t been charged with a crime amounts to an illegal arrest.

“The detainers are not criminal detainers or criminal arrest warrants. They do not charge anyone with a crime, indicate that anyone has been charged with a crime, or ask that anyone be detained in order that he or she can be prosecuted for a crime,” the court found. “There is no federal statute that confers on State officers the power to make this kind of an arrest.”

Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, called the ruling, the first of its kind in the nation, “an important precedent that we are a country that upholds the Constitution and the rule of law.”

Ali Vitali reported from Youngstown, Ohio.