Sessions, America’s all-purpose antebellum bogeyman and the greatest existential threat currently faced by the legal marijuana industry, offered the president his resignation last month, in response to Trump’s mounting frustration with Sessions’s ties to Russia, POLITICO reported.
Trump rejected Sessions’s offer to quit. But the incident reflects both the increasing turmoil within the administration as the probe into its connections with Vladimir Putin’s Russia widens, and the sinking influence enjoyed by Sessions — an early Trump supporter, with whom most of Trump’s Russian ties begins — as a result.
The famously mercurial Trump still refuses to publicly give his attorney general any vocal support. On the morning of March 31 — as a Justice Department in full damage-control mode tried to deflect attention with an unrelated memo — Trump himself declined to answer reporters asking if he still had confidence in Sessions.
Trump declines to respond when reporters ask if he still has confidence in Sessions. “Thank you,” he mouths, heading to helicopter.
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) June 7, 2017
With Trump jetting to Ohio, later that day, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway — the same Kellyanne Conway who coined the infamous term “alternative facts”— told Axios only that Trump “has confidence in the people who work for him.”
Sessions’s appointment has struck deep fear into the country’s legal marijuana industry. The former Alabama senator — who was rejected for a federal judgeship in the 1980s amid allegations of racism — is an avowed old-school drug warrior who has made his displeasure with cannabis legalization abundantly clear.
But despite repeated threats and ominous signs, Sessions has yet to use the federal Justice Department — which is still operating without U.S. attorneys in many states — to interfere with the country’s popular and widening experiment with marijuana legalization.
Sessions offered his resignation to the president in May, shortly before Trump departed for his nine-day international trip to the Middle East, reported POLITICO, citing an unnamed administration official who “regularly speaks with Sessions.”
Trump is reportedly furious with his attorney general over Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into the contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government.
Sessions met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, in December and made no mention of the meeting despite being asked directly about such contacts during his confirmation hearings in January.
“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians,” Sessions testified under oath.
Similar revelations of previously unreported ties led to the resignation of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security director, after only 19 days on the job.
Trump has repeatedly dismissed the investigation as a politically-motivated “witch hunt,” but believes Sessions’s recusal “made it seem like he’d done something wrong,” according to a March report in POLITICO.
“He’s tired of everyone thinking his presidency is screwed up,” one Trump confidant said at the time.
Since then, the chaos has only grown worse. Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey, who is testifying in Washington today, while the agency was investigating Trump’s ties to Russia.
If Sessions does eventually depart, it would be by far the most significant setback for the administration yet. It could also mean very good things for the country’s criminal-justice reform efforts and relaxed marijuana policy, both of which Sessions has openly criticized.
But even if Sessions does stay, he may be hard-pressed to pursue an ambitious agenda with his now-diminished influence.
TELL US, are you hopeful that Jeff Sessions might leave his position as attorney general?