Forcing Out Sessions Is an Attack on Accountability

Voters elected a Democratic House to impose a check on the president. Now Trump is waging a frontal assault on efforts to hold him accountable.

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

“Jobs, not mobs,” was President Donald Trump’s slogan in the 2018 midterm elections. With the election behind him, the president has opted instead for a move toward constitutional and political disorder likely to destabilize the whole economy, jobs and all.

In the first minutes after the coerced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, the plan has begun to take shape. The new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, has seized control of the Mueller investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, NBC News reported. And then the acting attorney general will be positioned to squeeze the investigation out of existence, perhaps by cutting its budget, perhaps by shrinking its jurisdiction.

Voters cast their ballots for a Democratic House to impose accountability on the president. His own first thought, instead, was to elude the little accountability previously imposed upon him—and it seems that in Whitaker, Trump has found the character willing to help.

Many shrewd Democrats and intelligent well-wishers had wanted to open the next Congress by emphasizing close-to-the-voters issues, notably health care and immigration. Ethics and oversight could wait a little. But the president has other ideas. He is a walking constitutional crisis, and emboldened by extra Senate seats, he has lunged for the path of confrontation.

And worse may loom ahead. Remember, under present law, a special counsel delivers his report to the attorney general, not to Congress. Whitaker may try to stifle it. Whitaker may try to impede further indictments, especially if the president’s eldest son or others close to him face legal jeopardy.

Democrats may have wished to address bread-and-butter issues first, ethics and Constitution later. This most unethical and anticonstitutional president has other ideas—and he still sets the agenda for the nation and for Congress.