Jeff Sessions’ Elegant Counter-Coup
In January 2017, right before the inauguration, I was in Trump Tower with Steve Bannon.
“What about Hillary?” I asked. “You gonna prosecute her?”
He waved me off. “That’s Sessions’ deal.”
On March 2, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from “any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.” Everyone forgot the line that followed: “This announcement should not be interpreted as confirmation of the existence of any investigation or suggestive of the scope of any such investigation,” he added. But what he did not say was that the announcement should not be interpreted as denial of the existence of any such investigation.”
The Swamp—and virtually all of the hysterical right that was conditioned to being stabbed in the back by its elected or appointed officials—merely assumed that no investigation was going on.
Surprise. In fact, Sessions inherited an ongoing investigation by the Inspector General Michael Horowitz. There was an investigation under way (perhaps many) at the very moment Sessions uttered those words. Horowitz had been, in the words of Arlo Guthrie, “oppressed, suppressed, repressed sitting on the Group W bench.” His legitimate investigations under the Obama regime had been squelched, sidetracked, or unceremoniously cancelled. Horowitz was one of those rare Washington creatures: a man who actually has a sense of honesty in his mission.
From the first moments in the administration, Jeff Sessions knew what he had in Horowitz. It’s not clear exactly when the plan came to Sessions, but clearly it was before his recusal. Both Trump and Sessions after the election had been shocked to see the level of hostility by the left to a duly constituted American election. Sessions personally found people he formerly though of as friends in the Senate accusing him of the most vile attitudes. He was painted as the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan—an organization he had crushed as Attorney General in Alabama. Trump had already told Rush Limbaugh he was shocked at the level of vitriol that remained by January, but had now understood it would not evaporate quickly. If it took Sessions any longer, it’s doubtful once his confirmation hearings concluded that he was under any illusions as to the enemy he faced.
Certainly such a foe would not permit a legitimate investigation of the past administration’s crimes by the Attorney General of the new administration. Yet investigated they must be. There was too much rampant criminality on display: the Clinton e-mails, the U1 scandal, the Clinton Foundation’s “pay for play” structure; the reports—as yet unproven—of “Deep State” resistance to the administration within the FBI and the Department of Justice. Sessions could not ignore these illegalities. At the same time, politically he could not prosecute him. He, not the real culprits, would become the object of the opposition’s legal, legislative, and propaganda efforts.
In short, Sessions could not personally lead the attack on the Swamp, nor could he ignore the criminality. He needed to be seen as doing nothing—prosecuting the “dark web,” or Medicare fraud, or MS-13—while someone else did the heavy lifting. His solution was elegant in design, brilliant in conception. If he could not investigate, he certainly would be obligated to follow through on demands from other legitimate sources—the Inspector General or Congress—who discovered criminal behavior and demanded action. Much of this was handled by his #2, Rod Rosenstein, who quietly in mid 2017 initiated separate investigations of the U1 scandal and Hillary’s e-mails. Rosenstein also picked up and continued an ongoing FBI investigation of the Clinton Family Foundation, supporting it with offices in Los Angeles, New York, D.C., and Little Rock.
Throughout 2017, Sessions cleverly and effectively maintained the illusion of doing nothing when it came to bringing cases against the prime elements of the Deep State. At the same time, the Special Counsel Robert Mueller was—in some eyes—running rampant, issuing indictments for Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. The dichotomy was more than many conservatives could take: here was Flynn, a highly decorated soldier, pleading guilty to a lie that even the FBI investigators at the time concluded was not a lie, while people such as Tony Podesta, Andrew McCabe, and others not only walked free but seemed to prosper.
Then came early 2018, and the real design of the Sessions counter-coup begam to leak out, often from Sessions himself in the context of replying to Congressional queries. First, it was revealed there was an investigation of Hillary’s e-mails that had been going on “for months.” Next, in January Sessions announced that Cody Hiland was appointed prosecutor of the Clinton Family Foundation in Little Rock. (Notice that a grand jury was empaneled there also appeared, but so far it is not clear if Hiland himself empaneled that grand jury, if it was a routine grand jury for the district, or if Hiland “re-purposed” the grand jury.
In short order, it was then revealed—again in a response to Congress—that there was an ongoing investigation into the U1 scandal. It was later revealed by Sessions that there not only was a prosecutor looking into the various illegalities that Horowitz was uncovering (which obviously Sessions knew about) but that Sessions named the prosecutor (John Huber) and it was later leaked that Huber had empaneled a grand jury. And that the investigation that Huber took over had been going on . . . “for months.”
By that time, it was clear to all but the most obtuse that Sessions had been silently setting up three separate investigations in late 2017 and was using the opportunity of Congressional requests to make them public. There were other DOJ investigations too into the Clinton/DNC machine, including an FEC violation (that the Federal Elections Commission itself) was investigating.
But the real fireworks were just beginning. Based on the interplay between the House Intelligence Committee (which had its own ongoing investigation of Democrat crimes in the election), Senator Charles Grasssley of the Senate Judiciary Committee (ditto), Cong. Bob Goodlatte of the House Judiciary Committee, and Senator Ron Johnson of the Senate Oversight Committee and the Inspector General, who fulfilled Congress’s request for documents, Sessions presented the image of being out of touch. No documents were released to Congress until there had been a very public and very contentious debate.
That was by design. Sessions’ strategy all along had been to investigate in the background, but force either Congress or Horowitz to the forefront as the origination of the requests. “Well, you know, we’re just sittin’ over here at Justice drinkin’ our mint juleps when these guys request all these documents.” Oh, and by the way, Sessions would add, here you go and we have many more you might want to see.
From early 2017, Jeff Sessions realized that he was engaged in both a legal/criminal battle and a public relations fight. He could never succeed in the former without simultaneously winning the latter. And for the PR offensive to work, Sessions could not be perceived as leading the charge or being aggressive. It worked out better than Sessions could have dreamed. As the DOJ received a criminal referral for Andrew McCabe in April 2018, James Comey—one of the most arrogant men ever to hold any office—released his book that had information in it that again prodded Congress to demand his private memos. Once again, after a public standoff, Sessions relented and handed over Comey’s memos, which incriminated him through his leaking of classified materials. Sessions had gotten McCabe and Comey to build their own gallows.
Meanwhile, Robert Mueller sits in a gilded cage, sequestering his leftist charges so they can minimal no harm, running from the Deutschbank to the Seychilles to porn stars. To an unbiased observer, he would look like someone wanting to fail.
The coup de grace appears to be close. Rudy Giuliani has joned Trump’s legal team. It’s worth noting he is a prosecutor, not a defense attorney. The “big” Inspector General report is scheduled for release by May 15, with yet another IG report specifically on the FISA abuse to be delivered at a future date not yet stipulated. Slowly but surely Sessions has maneuvered every piece on the board to indict virtually every one of the Deep State up to and including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Will he? It’s played out the way he intended for two years. My money is on Jeff.
Co-author of A Patriot’s History of the United States and the forthcoming Reagan: the American President.