President Donald Trump wants a new attorney general because his current one, Jeff Sessions, won’t actively help him obstruct justice. But firing Sessions, or forcing him to resign, would create a political shitstorm—one the White House can’t really afford right now—so they’re closing in on a kind of detente: Sessions can keep his job if he’ll throw some leakers in jail. Sessions is even using the word “jail,” to make sure the goal is clear.
Maybe Sessions is trying to placate Trump, and nothing will come of it. But the White House isn’t really in the mood to let Sessions beg off this obligation. To the contrary, they are leaning on him in wildly unethical ways. Most recently, Trump’s comically inept and financially conflicted new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, violated Justice Department protocols meant to prevent political interference in prosecutions, just to let Sessions know the score.
This is all gross enough, but the potentially larger problem is that the vast majority of the leaks that Trump et al are furious about are barely leaks, and almost certainly aren’t crimes.
One of the outgoing administration’s biggest concerns about the Trump administration was that it would use the tools of law enforcement to ruin people’s lives. Not the lives of people like Hillary Clinton and James Comey, who are powerful and wealthy in their own rights, but nobodies, working in the government or the press corps, whom Trump decides to scapegoat.
Firing Mueller is an ethical and political and legal line Sessions seems unwilling to cross. This is the compromise.