Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the “Walking Monument to the Confederacy,” has been forced out as Attorney General, and he leaves behind a legacy exactly like you’d expect from a man named jointly after the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and the Confederate general who launched the Civil War with his attack on Fort Sumter, P.G.T. Beauregard.
Following the spirit of his namesakes’ hatred for the federal government’s intrusive insistence on progress toward liberty and equality, Sessions’ accomplishments at the Department of Justice largely rolled back the wealth of reform efforts instituted by the Obama Administration on issues ranging from immigration, criminal justice, LGBTQ rights, and voting rights.
Obama-era memos and rules developed to decrease police brutality and increase police transparency were favorite targets for Sessions, and one of his last efforts before resigning/accepting his firing was publishing a memo to help delegitimize the various consent decrees the DOJ has cooperatively implemented with police departments around the country accused of systemic racial discrimination.
Thanks to this back-stepping strategy, the American Civil Liberties Union recently recognized Sessions as “the worst attorney general in modern American history.”
“From his draconian approach to immigration policy,” the ACLU writes, “To his efforts to erase protections for transgender people to his many moves to dismantle his predecessors’ attempts to decrease the federal prison population, the list of Sessions’ offenses is long.”
However, despite the ACLU’s designation for Sessions, his replacement Matthew Whitaker could give Sessions a run for his money in the ACLU’s eyes. Whitaker had been serving up until his appointment as Sessions’ chief-of-staff, but his selection as Sessions’ replacement is immediately suspicious for a host of reasons based on several of his public comments and interview answers in recent months, which suggest his appointment by President Trump is designed for the express purpose of sabotaging the Mueller Investigation, which Whitaker has often criticized.
Whitaker’s interim appointment also appears to be un-Constitutional because, as Sessions’ chief-of-staff, he has never been confirmed by the Senate. This view was recently pushed persuasively by George Conway, who is of course Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway’s iconoclastic #NeverTrump-er husband. The Democratic Party is currently exploring lawsuit options to invalidate Whitaker’s out-of-left-field appointment.
Another suspicious detail in this controversy is that the obvious replacement for Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—who has been confirmed by the Senate—was snubbed for the job. Rosenstein has been notably supportive of the Mueller investigation’s continued work, and it is relevant to note that there is not much cause for President Trump to have fired Sessions in the first place, except that Sessions had appropriately recused himself from overseeing Mueller’s team.
Whitaker may ultimately prove to be merely a brief asterisk in the history of the Department of Justice, so perhaps for now Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is safely still the indisputably worst attorney general in modern history.