OPED: Honeymoon over for Trump and Sessions

Gloria Johns
Tribune News Service

The courtship was whirlwind, followed by a short engagement, and then a marriage, not quite made in heaven, but maybe somewhere in Candyland — a place that's make-believe.

But now Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump may be headed for a no-fault divorce.

They're one of those on-again, off-again couples who really can't stand each other but can't quite let go.

The relationship began with two ambitious, small-minded bigots clawing their way to the top, using each other to accomplish their goals.

Sessions was closer to the coveted attorney general's job than he had ever been in his life, and Trump needed someone who would watch his back in the Russian investigation into the 2016 presidential election.

That Sessions was the first U.S. senator to endorse Donald Trump was a smart move. More than likely this was the handshake that sealed the deal.

And evidently Sessions was obsessed enough with the plan where they would both benefit that he was willing to risk being disbarred and his reputation ruined when he met with then Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and then lied about it to the Senate Intel Committee.

Or maybe Trump and Sessions thought they were so slick that there was no risk at all.

But long before he joined Club Trump, Sessions was a controversial figure.

Nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1986 for a federal judgeship, he was rejected for confirmation based on testimony to the committee detailing many offensive remarks he made as Alabama's attorney general.

For example, in a conversation with two fellow prosecutors about the trial of two KKK members accused of beating and lynching a black man, Sessions is reported to have said he thought the KKK were "OK," until he learned that they smoked marijuana the night of the murder.

Thomas Figures, a black assistant U.S. attorney, testified that Sessions had referred to him as "boy" on several occasions.

And J. Gerald Hebert, a white man and Justice Department lawyer, testified that Sessions told him the NAACP and ACLU were "un-American" and "Communist-inspired."

Sessions explained the comments away: "That is probably something I should not have said, but I really did not mean any harm by it."

With that, Sessions proved himself to possess the same hollow-head approach to controversy that is characteristic of Trump's meanderings. Neither is capable of thinking beyond the moment.

Having been appointed by Trump, Sessions took a hard line against the disadvantaged, primarily, and those with the inability to fight back — everything you'd find in Trump's playbook.

He ordered federal prosecutors to begin seeking the maximum criminal charges possible. He signed an order adopting civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to seize the property of those "suspected" but not charged with crimes.

But Sessions was rattled to his core during his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the Russian affair. He became hostile, defensive, and more and more ignorant as the hearing progressed.

Twenty-six times Sessions responded to questioning with "I do not recall" or "I don't remember."

Afterward, acting solely out of concern for his own hide, he recused himself from the investigation, leaving Trump exposed. And in doing so, he makes it extremely difficult for Trump to fire him without blowing up the Russia investigation.

Sessions has officially gone from being an accomplice to one more name on Trump's hit list.

Perhaps after a lifelong career of abominable behavior, Sessions deserves his comeuppance. And having seen the hatchet job Trump has done on others in his administration, I would say that Sessions should watch his back, or more accurately, keep a close eye on Twitter.

— Gloria Johns is a freelance writer living in San Angelo, Texas.