Today he is “VERY weak.” Yesterday he was “beleaguered.” Some day soon, he may well be out of a job. But in the meantime, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been one of the most consequential members of the Trump administration. Though recent headlines about him have concerned his tenuous hold on the job as the nation’s top law enforcement official, Sessions has already begun reshaping the policies and priorities of the Justice Department.
After two decades as one of the Senate’s most conservative members, Sessions became an early Trump surrogate, lending an air of legitimacy to an unusual candidate. Trump rewarded him with an appointment as Attorney General, and Sessions has moved quickly to act on his law-and-order ideology. He has rolled back Obama administration policies on asset forfeiture, cracked down on sanctuary cities, and pushed drug war policies reminiscent of an earlier era. As much of the president’s legislative agenda has stalled in Congress, Sessions’s actions represent some of the most substantive policy changes that the administration has made to date.
In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday CJR Editor and Publisher Kyle Pope made the case that, rather than highlighting the Washington soap opera or responding to every Trump tweet attacking the media, “reporters should be focused on the president’s team and his policies, examining his remaking of American government.” With respect to Sessions and his policies, reporters are doing that, but the ‘will-he-or-won’t-he be fired’ drama that Trump performs on Twitter makes it difficult for those substantive stories to break through.
Below, more on the policies Sessions continues to push, even as his position is threatened.
- Criticism from the right: Sessions’s civil forfeiture directive drew rebukes from both sides of the political aisle. The editors of National Review criticized the procedure for producing “perverse outcomes in which American citizens are punished by their government for crimes with which they have not even been charged, much less convicted.”
- Why doesn’t he just quit?: Vox’s Dara Lind writes that Sessions hasn’t resigned because he is “deeply committed to his ideological agenda,” which is aimed at “protecting police officers, cracking down on unauthorized immigrants, and using criminal justice policy to send a ‘tough on crime’ message.”
- Return of the war on drugs : In May, The LA Times’s Joseph Tanfani and Evan Halper covered Sessions’s effort “to turn the clock back to an earlier, tougher era in the four-decades-long war on drugs.”
- ‘Sanctuary city’ crack-down: As the president undermined his job security, Sessions denounced Philadelphia for limiting its cooperation with federal authorities, The New York Times’s Rebecca R. Ruiz reports.
Other notable stories
- Pope’s entire remarks, on the dangers of Trump’s attack on the integrity of the media and—more importantly—how journalists and politicians should respond, are worth reading.
- Veteran New York Times White House reporter Peter Baker has a fascinating behind-the-scenes description of last week’s Oval Office meeting with President Trump. “I have now interviewed seven presidents,” he writes. “With Mr. Trump the experience is strikingly different in almost every respect.”
- BuzzFeed’s Hannah Allam has a unique beat: covering Muslim life in America. In a thoughtful Q&A with CJR’s Shaya Tayefe Mohajer, she says “It’s important to me that I don’t write about this fictional thing called ‘the Muslim community.’”
- The Senate will vote today on a health-care bill, but they aren’t sure what’s in it. Vox’s Sarah Kliff has an overview of the “an absurd and somewhat unbelievable situation.”
- The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple has the latest on The New York Times’s request for a correction from Fox News. The episode, Wemple writes, is “another case of the differing standards between Fox News’s opinion operation and Fox News’s news operation.”
- “We all have ideals. But it’s hard to know how strong our commitment to those ideals is until someone is waving money in our face. Here is a story about money winning the battle.” Splinter’s Hamilton Nolan writes a scathing piece on the response from management at DNAInfo and Gothamist to a unionization attempt.
- Joe Pompeo’s Vanity Fair debut, “The Agony and the Anxiety of The New York Times,” depicts unease over layoffs and organizational restructuring, even as the paper continues to produce a run of major stories.