Ever since he told The New York Times that Jeff Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation was “very unfair to the president,” Donald Trump has been actively pushing the attorney general out the door. Trump wants Sessions gone because he wants special counsel Robert Mueller gone, but he seems to realize that firing Sessions in an attempt to end the Russia investigation would make him look like a despot. So he’s doing what many bosses before him have done to employees they dislike but can’t fire—he is making his life hell.
That has come in the form of some very public criticism, and that continued on Tuesday morning.
These tweets came hours after the Associated Press reported that Trump had spoken to advisers about firing the attorney general and a day after he had referred to Sessions as “beleaguered” in a tweet. The problem here is that if Trump really wanted the Department of Justice to investigate Ukrainian efforts during the election, he could ask Sessions to do so. And James Comey, not Andrew McCabe, made the decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton over her emails.
Sessions is one of the few members of the administration who seems to be genuinely committed to executing the vision that Trump laid out during the campaign. His Department of Justice has been geared around draconian reforms and crackdowns, as well as rolling back Obama-era protections of civil liberties. But Trump now sees him as an impediment to ending the Russia investigation—it’s quite possible that he has already pushed Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to dump Mueller.
Throwing Sessions overboard would, of course, backfire, just as it did with Sally Yates and James Comey. That Trump is openly pressuring Sessions over the Russia inquiry and making it clear that his successor will have to get rid of Robert Mueller will only create greater pressure to preserve the special counsel’s investigation. But Trump has apparently decided that the risk is worth it. The administration is in the midst of its own take on the Saturday Night Massacre, with Trump pushing Sessions, Rosenstein, McCabe, and, most importantly, Mueller out the door.