The Timing of Jeff Sessions
Going in to the meeting with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday in Portland, the question I had was about timing: Was it a coincidence or correlation that the U.S. Attorney's Office would be getting three new prosecutors the day after Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, asked the office to pony up to 3 of its prosecutors for the vetting of the government documents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's nominee for the United States Supreme Court?
After all, the Attorney General made a push for the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh right out of the gate in his remarks about a brand new law enforcement crackdown announced Thursday called the Synthetic Opioid Surge -- code named "S.O.S."
"The President just nominated a Supreme Court Justice who is the son of a prosecutor. He grew up with a mom who was practicing closing arguments at the dinner table. He understands and appreciates the value of the work that we do and he is committed to interpreting the law as written. He serves under the law -- not over it," Sessions said. Off script to the roomful of uniforms and dark suits Sessions added that Trump's nominee does not view his lifetime appointment to the bench "as an opportunity to advance an agenda."
The implication was obvious -- law enforcement will have a friend in the courtroom with Kavanaugh on the bench -- and Sessions' message not subtle: All hands on deck, boys. Given the temperament of Sessions' boss, the urgency of Kavanaugh's confirmation is understandable.
In person, Sessions is not nearly as creepy as he's portrayed on Saturday Night Live by Kate McKinnon. The Attorney General's head does not bob and his eyes are not so wild. In fact Jeff Sessions is a polished, highly skilled politician oozing with congeniality and purpose. Appearing earnest and humble in his high praise of all things cop-like, Sessions made a few muted and well-timed jokes about Trump ("he can send a pretty clear order - sometimes") for the skeptics in the room (i.e. the lawyers), something many men of his short stature would be challenged to pull off.
It must be very exciting but it can't be easy working for Donald Trump. Justice under Jeff Sessions is not your granddaddy's Department. America is fortunate that the Attorney General of the United States can walk and chew gum at the same time whether you agree with all of his policy positions or not. Announcing a tough-on-crime surge and ordering the prosecution of all synthetic opioid infractions regardless of size in the same week his Department reopened the investigation of Emmett Till may have been a coincidence, or elevating the case of the 14 year-old black boy who was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955 could be a sign that the Department under Sessions' leadership is mindful of the racial implications of increased drug prosecutions and incarceration.
Sessions' crackdown on drug traffickers includes the arrest and prosecution of hundreds of doctors for fraud and complicity in the heroin epidemic, we are told. His vision of jail appears to be black and white. Sessions didn't need to read the signs of protesters ("Go home Nazi Scum" was one that caught my eye) to know his reputation regarding race needs to be tended to like a garden. He made a point of pointing out that his new DEA Director, Uttam Dhillon, a man with dark skin, had always aspired to the important job he now holds as Exhibit A to Sessions' belief the American Dream is alive and diverse.
It turns out the timing of Sessions' tough-on-crime tour, the Supreme Court nominee and the Emmet Till investigation were of minor note compared to the Department's indictment of 12 Russian Intelligence Officers on Friday -- the eve of President Trump's planned summit with Vladimir Putin. Is it a coincidence Special Counsel Mueller's team presented its evidence of shocking hacking offenses during the 2016 election before the president heads into Putin's man cave, or is there a correlation?
Trump publicly invited Russian hackers on July 27, 2016 to go after Hillary Clinton's private emails when he said on national television, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
In the indictment, Special Counsel Mueller alleges in a one small section perhaps the most interesting and ultimately consequential point of all. "On or about July 27, 2016, the conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton campaign."
Coincidence or correlation?
"We're in safer hands in my view when a judge calls balls and strikes and doesn't take sides in games," Sessions said in his remarks to law enforcement Friday. Fair enough. I agree -- and so does likely the 200 or so protesters who showed up to give a message to Jeff Sessions about the history of repeated injuries and usurpations by President Trump, all having in their view a direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny.
Nobody is above the law in these United States.
Law enforcement is important and it's not partisan. Politicians who have been around the block like Jeff Sessions know the world is not divided between Democrats and Republicans. There are good guys and there are bad guys. Sessions' challenge at the Department of Justice is to lead the good guys and prosecute the bad guys and so far his timing is pretty good on at least a few important fronts.