Of every bumbling criminal, oafish halfwit, looting plutocrat, and jumped-up county clerk with a Napoleonic sense of self that Trump has put into his cabinet, few have been more quietly competent than Jeff Sessions. With the possible exception of James Mattis, Sessions is the only one who plugs along at his job with diligence and expertise, not overtly sticking his hand in the till, and avoiding the messy drama that surrounds Trump. He refuses to be engaged even when Trump baits him directly, as he does with increasing frequency.
That would be admirable, if his professionalism wasn’t in the service of rolling back every civil right he can find and helping to bring back institutionalized and overt racism into every aspect of American life.
But it is. The one thing that Jeff Sessions is doing correctly is protecting the Mueller probe, and actually refusing to let it be politicized. He’s not ending a case at the whim of the President, because that’s not how law in this country. For this, he’s enduring from Trump the trial of Job, a constant stream of invective and public hatred, constant scorn that’s turned the right wing against him.
So why does he do it? Why does Sessions, who has always been a right-wing team player, and was one of Trump’s earliest supporters, keep up the probe? My guess is because, like everyone else, he knows that it isn’t a hoax. He knows there is a lot there, and if he quit, the next AG (Ivanka?) would end it right away. But more than that, he stays and endures because his lifelong ambition has been to bring back Jim Crow, and as Attorney General, he is in a unique position to do so.
One of his first acts was to gut the Civil Rights Division of the DoJ, at a time when racist crimes were spiking in the wake of the inauguration and the country was beginning to understand the way that small towns systemically targeted minorities with absurd fines and arrests to fill their coffers. Not only that, but he directed what was left of the Civil Rights department to investigate how affirmative action violated the rights of white folks. And he was just getting started.
He immediately worked to bring back the mandatory minimum in sentencing, and reinstituted the worst of the “War on drugs” sentencing guidelines. He “directed the Justice Department to start using private prisons again to ‘meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.'” This is arrant nonsense, once again putting private companies with an eye toward free labor and government money in charge of our prisons.
A neat trick was trying to take forensic evidence out of criminal investigations, because sometimes that showed people were innocent. Not only was this remarkably cruel, it also was essentially anti-cop, since it made their jobs harder. Most police want to do their job well! Sessions just wants them to arrest and convict, no questions asked.
He is feuding with Trump on prison reform (which I don’t think Trump cares too much about anyway), because he can’t stand the thought of anyone not serving the harshest possible penalties for any crime. And this isn’t across the board: everything Sessions does is to make sure that the poor and the minorities find themselves locked up, tools of the state, in the hands of private prisons. He doesn’t want them to vote, and he doesn’t want them to feel comfortable. I’m sure he’s against lynching, but in all other aspects, he is purely in favor of solidifying the role that the prison-industrial complex plays in continuing the hideous legacy of official state racism.
(He also hates the transgendered, but that goes without saying.)
I don’t think any of the Democrats or Independents want Sessions to stay because they like this stuff, of course. But there is a sense, I think, among the majority of people that Trump is guilty. And right now, Sessions is keeping the investigation going. There is something somewhat heroic in this. That it is in the service of bringing back the worst of the American judicial system, and in the service of outright white nationalism, is one of the hideous paradoxes of the Trump era which we can never reconcile. Everything is awful.