Trump vs. Sessions: A Classic Authoritarian Struggle

Previously: Trump Is a Terrible President — and a Terrible Boss.

Donald Trump's campaign to cajole Attorney General Jeff Sessions into quitting continued into the afternoon yesterday, as he said during a press conference in the Rose Garden: "I am disappointed in the Attorney General. He should not have recused himself [from the Russia probe] almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have, quite simply, picked somebody else. So I think that's a bad thing not for the president, but for the presidency. I think it's unfair to the presidency. And that's the way I feel."

Which was a reiteration of what he told the New York Times last week. And it's just as alarming now as it was before.

Sessions reportedly has no plans to quit, especially because "more than any other member of Trump's Cabinet, Sessions has been an uncompromising advocate for Trump's agenda. The attorney general has worked methodically to dismantle Obama's legacy at the Justice Department" — and Sessions knows how beloved that has made him among conservatives. He has his own base of loyalty, so he's prepared to "call Trump's bluff."

If he hangs on, that will eventually result in his regaining Trump's loyalty and support, because Trump is a coward who fears looking weak, so he won't risk defeat in a major showdown. Instead, he'll re-embrace Sessions — and Sessions is giving him good reason to do so by reportedly planning to "make an announcement about several criminal leak investigations within days."

"The investigations will be centered around news reports containing sensitive material about intelligence," which has been an era of Trump's obsessive focus for months.

How all of this is unfolding is incredibly informative, illuminating just how resolutely Trump is running his administration like a classic authoritarian. He demands personal loyalty, which very specifically entails committing to abet and replicate his contempt for the rule of law and lack of ethics, and when he doesn't get it, he immediately begins the process of alienation.

Weak characters will simply leave (e.g. Sean Spicer). Strong characters will call his bluff, and he will spin to look like he's the one in control of their collective fates. They'll throw him a bone to stay in his good graces. But with every interpersonal battle lost, he will become weaker, and thus more dangerous, as he responds to feeling weak with displays of the abuse he substitutes for actual strength.

None of this is good, at all. And beware the political press minimizing it as "drama" or "palace intrigue." It is serious, scary business — and we should all understand exactly what we're seeing.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus