Fox News host Jeanine Pirro was married for thirty-eight years. Her divorce was finalized in 2013. Who knows what goes on between two people or why such a long relationship might ultimately fall apart? They certainly endured through some tough times. On June 23, 2000, a jury found her husband guilty on twenty-three of the tax evasion charges brought against him. Like Paul Manafort, he beat the rap on ten counts. Albert Pirro was sentenced to twenty-nine months in prison.
Jeanine thought the case was trumped up. She called the investigation “invasive and hostile” and the prosecutors “desperate.” In other words, she had some pretty good training for her current job as official Fox News on-air defender of the White House against the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Last night, she went after Jeff Sessions in a big way. Speaking directly to the attorney general, she mocked him for refusing to resign his position despite the fact that the president has made his desires clear:
“What don’t you get? Have you have no self-esteem, no self-regard, self respect?” she said. “Where is your dignity? Why would you stay in a job where you’re not wanted? A job you took under false pretenses, knowing you wouldn’t be able to do the whole job?”
This is actually a pretty good set of questions. Why does Jeff Sessions persist in his job knowing that the president loathes him, considers him incompetent and disloyal, and most definitely wants him to quit? Pirro took him to task for his lack of self-respect, and then she added some more insults at the president’s behest just to drive the point home:
Pirro said Sessions “groveled and begged” Trump for the job and was given it out of pity. She derided his service in the Senate, saying he did “basically nothing” and “did not deserve to be Attorney General.”
The “gave the job out of pity” jab is straight stenography from the president’s mouth and the kind of retroactive pettiness and rewriting of history that he’s well-known for committing, but insulting Sessions’s performance as a senator is new line of attack. Trump, through Pirro, is saying “You suck and you have always sucked.”
From here, things got even uglier:
Pirro then said that the Russian collusion investigation is “over” and that the “unhinged conspiracy theory is dead.”
Pirro then warned Sessions that Trump would come for him.
“Can’t you see the damage to this country by this fraudulent investigation that you breathed life into by allowing them to run amok,” Pirro said. “This country is being torn apart.”
Pirro then appeared to threaten Sessions.
“If you and your pals think you’re getting to the president, think again. This president can take the shots, he’s done it his whole life,” she said. “Never underestimate him or his powers.”
In this last bit, the president (again, through Pirro) is casting Sessions as a conspirator against his presidency. Sessions and his pals think that they will “get” the president but they are underestimating his vast powers.
Maybe this how Trump now views things. If Sessions won’t quit, it must be because he’s secretly part of the deep state cabal that is trying to use a “dead” and “unhinged” conspiracy theory and “fraudulent” investigation to remove Trump from power.
There’s one odd aspect to this that is easy to overlook. President Trump could fire Jeff Sessions today if he wanted to. There are two reasons why he doesn’t.
One is that he’s been warned that he would not be able to appoint a successor. But, following an intense White House lobbying effort, the Senate Republicans have begun to soften on that threat, with Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley recently reversing himself and saying that he actually could find time to confirm a replacement before the end of the year and a handful of other senators stepping up to say that the president deserves an attorney general he can trust. It’s still not clear that he’d have the votes though, so this is still a consideration.
The other reason Trump won’t fire Sessions is that it could be construed as an effort to obstruct the investigation. But this isn’t an actual reason not to fire him because merely by explaining that he’s angry that Sessions hasn’t obstructed the investigation, Trump has indicted himself already on this count. Firing Sessions would be a superfluous act. Everyone knows he wants him gone so he can have a new attorney general confirmed who will shut the investigation down.
When Pirro argues that Sessions accepted the job of attorney general under “false pretenses,” knowing that he “wouldn’t be able to do the whole job,” she’s echoing what the president has said publicly and privately countless times. When she say that Sessions “breathed life” into the investigation and allowed it “to run amok,” she’s criticizing him using the president’s own words. And those words mean “you were hired to shut down any investigation of how we run the presidency and you allowed it to continue.”
That’s the worst example of a conspiracy to obstruct justice that can be conceived. If you can hire the prosecutor and direct his activities, you will never be indicted for any crime no matter how heinous. Trump is arguing that he has the right to obstruct justice and that Sessions was supposed to be his instrument for that purpose. That kind of behavior is impeachable. Forcing Sessions out with threats and insults isn’t materially different from just firing him.
It also is more than enough evidence that Trump would expect any replacement for Sessions to make obstruction of justice their first order of business. I think Senator Susan Collins put this most succinctly:
…Susan Collins told reporters that she would discourage Trump from ousting Sessions, given the president’s repeated criticism over his decision to step aside from the investigation of Russian election meddling (ultimately leading to the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III).
“It certainly would send the wrong message,” the Maine Republican said. “Because the basis of the president’s criticism of the attorney general is that he recused himself, appropriately so, from the Russia investigation.”
“I don’t see the president being able to get someone else confirmed as attorney general were he to fire Jeff Sessions,” she said.
If anything, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska was even more emphatic on this point in a speech he gave on the Senate floor:
“Bizarrely, there are people in this body now talking like the attorney general will be fired, should be fired, I’m not sure how to interpret the comments of the last couple of hours,” Sasse said. “I would just like to say, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, and as a member of this body, I find it really difficult to envision any circumstance where I would vote to confirm a successor to Jeff Sessions if he is fired because he is executing his job, rather than choosing to act in a partisan hack.”
“The attorney general should not be fired for acting honorably and for being faithful to the rule of law,” Sasse said.
The uncomfortable truth is that Senators Collins and Sasse may be all that stands between a functional system of government and a complete breakdown of our system in favor of an unaccountable and dictatorial strongman. If Jeanine Pirro gave the same performance on Egyptian or Turkish or Filipino or Russian television, we’d recognize it as fascism because the threats would be taken at face value as serious. All Trump needs to make his threats real at this point is the compliance of the Senate.