Welcome to our weekly “Trumptastrophe” series, that will serve to remind us all of the destructive policies, decisions, and actions we encountered during the Trump presidency and the threats that he and others in the MAGA movement still pose – and to keep those moments clear in our memory as we fight to defeat Republican extremists during the upcoming elections.
This week’s recap focuses on Trump’s disdain for those who are unwilling to put loyalty to him above everything else – including the rule of law or the Constitution. We can’t forget how he has treated not only his political opponents but also those who were once considered allies and confidants – by weaponizing the Department of Justice and other government agencies to do his bidding:
Trump fired his first attorney general, former Sen. Jeff Sessions, on Nov. 7, 2018, demanding Sessions’ resignation the day after midterm elections gave Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives. The ouster followed more than a year of harsh personal criticism by Trump after Sessions became “one of Trump’s favorite targets of ritualistic humiliation,” in the words of one observer.
Why did Trump spend so many months publicly berating and belittling the far-right attorney general as “VERY WEAK” and “DISGRACEFUL”? After all, Sessions had been the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump’s campaign. As attorney general he was aggressively implementing Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda and advancing the anti-LGBTQ goals of Trump’s religious-right backers.
Sessions’ unforgivable sin in Trump’s eyes was recusing himself from the investigation of ties between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign—an investigation begun by the FBI and ultimately handed off to special counsel Robert Mueller—rather than shutting the investigation down. Sessions recused himself in March 2017 amidst criticism that he had said during his confirmation hearings that he had not met with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the campaign, which turned out not to be true.
Trump was furious that Sessions failed to shut down the investigation. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked someone else,” Trump told the New York Times. Trump could have fired Sessions earlier than he did, but advisers thought it would be a bad move politically after Trump had already fired FBI Director James Comey.
Here’s how Trump’s public abuse and ultimate firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions reminds us that we must prevent Trump from returning to the presidency:
- Trump’s overriding demand for people who work for him is for personal loyalty—not to the Constitution, the rule of law, or even a right-wing policy agenda, but to Trump himself.
- Trump has made it clear that if he returns to the White House, the Justice Department would be turned into an instrument of personal retribution against anyone he believes has wronged him.
- Trump’s desire for vengeance is combined with a strong streak of sadistic cruelty that is displayed by his need to punish, humiliate, and destroy his political opponents, not just defeat them. Rolling Stone magazine recently reported that an entire arm of Trump’s campaign apparatus is “dedicated to making [Ron] DeSantis’ life hell, sometimes in a flamboyantly childish, taunting approach that more closely resembles teenage cyberbullying than it does a White House run.”
- Trump’s right-wing allies are explicitly rejecting the tradition that the Justice Department’s decisions about upholding the law should be insulated from partisan politics or the personal demands of the president. “You need an attorney general and a White House Counsel’s Office that don’t view themselves as trying to protect the department from the president,” says Russ Vought, a former Trump aide who started a think tank to continue pushing MAGA priorities.
- “To facilitate Trump’s ability to direct Justice Department actions, his associates have been drafting plans to dispense with 50 years of policy and practice intended to shield criminal prosecutions from political considerations,” the Washington Post reported this month. “Critics have called such ideas dangerous and unconstitutional.”
- Project 2025—a plan by a huge coalition of right-wing political and legal groups for an ideological purge and takeover of federal agencies under a new Trump administration—includes planning for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy the military against Americans who protest his actions. Some far-right Trump supporters had urged him to use the Insurrection Act to stay in power after losing the 2020 election.
- Trump’s treatment of Sessions is also a reminder of how fear of and loyalty to Trump has infected and corrupted the Republican Party. In 2017, Sen Lindsey Graham said there would be “holy hell to pay” if Trump fired Sessions, but a year later, he had nothing bad to say about Trump dumping Sessions and replacing him with loyalist Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general.
These are just some of the reasons we need YOU in this fight. So, find your favorite way to unwind after reading through this week’s recap, and then make a plan for how you will fight back THIS week, this MONTH, this election cycle.