Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump, at a time when doing so was still a considerable political risk. He campaigned for Trump. He defended Trump’s most controversial statements — about immigration, about Hillary Clinton, etc.
And, as attorney general, Sessions more than any other Cabinet secretary put policy meat on the bones of Trump’s rhetoric.
But none of that mattered, because Sessions, a former U.S. attorney and Alabama attorney general, believed he needed to recuse himself from the Mueller probe into allegations that Trump “colluded” with Russia. According to various reports, Sessions believed he not only had a legal and ethical obligation to do so, he also believed his recusal would be politically beneficial to the president because it would protect the integrity of the investigation.
Trump saw it differently. He believed that the first loyalty of the attorney general should be to Trump personally, not to the law or the Department of Justice.
This view was shared by Trump’s most reliable loyalists, many of whom claim to be passionately committed to the “Trump agenda.” But whenever that claim is put to the test, they reveal they are more committed to Trump himself. Jeanine Pirro of Fox News railed against Sessions, calling him a “shill” and hectoring him to “resign immediately” or “put on his big boy pants.” Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., who tends to define both conservatism and Christianity as personal loyalty to Trump, said that Sessions was merely one of those conservatives who “pretend” to be a “friends of conservatives and the faith community.”
This is all one piece of the broader tapestry of what Trumpism always boils down to when put to the test: a cult of personality. Support of the man is more important than support of anything else, including Trump’s own agenda. I disagree with Sessions on quite a few things, but the notion that he isn’t a conservative is silly. More importantly, the idea that he’s not a conservative — or a man of integrity — simply because he wouldn’t display blind loyalty to the president is grotesquely unconservative.
Sessions resigned from the Senate to become attorney general because he thought he could accomplish important things. Trump had him fired (he refused to even talk to Sessions personally) because at the end of the day, the only truly important thing in Trump world is Trump.
Writes for Tribune Content Agency.