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  July 27, 2017

Trump vs. Sessions: A One-Sided Twitter War

"All of this is particularly bizarre because the Trump administration is having enormous difficulty getting any of its supposed agenda done, and the only person who is actively implementing the Trump agenda is Jeff Sessions," says white-collar criminologist and economist Bill Black
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William K. Black, author of THE BEST WAY TO ROB A BANK IS TO OWN ONE, teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC). He was the Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007. Black was a central figure in exposing Congressional corruption during the Savings and Loan Crisis.


SHARMINI PERIES: It's The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. President Trump renewed his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday when he tweeted, "Why didn't AG Sessions replace acting FBI Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars, $700,000, for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp," it read. This tweet follows several others over the last week in which Trump criticized Sessions for not pursuing White House leaks and for having recused himself from the Russia investigation.

Joining us now to take a closer look at the recent Trump fight with Sessions is Bill Black. Bill is a white collar criminologist, Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He is the author of "The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One." Thanks for joining us, Bill.

BILL BLACK: Thank you.

SHARMINI PERIES: Bill, first give your impression of this one-sided fight that's going on between Trump and Sessions, but it's really Trump waging this war. Why didn't Trump simply just fire Sessions instead of waging this tweet storm?

BILL BLACK: I used to work for the Justice Department. My wife used to work as a Justice Department, both as trial attorneys. I worked heavily with the FBI and trained FBI agents and Justice Department prosecutors to investigate and prosecute elite financial frauds back when we used to do that. This is something that strikes very close to home.

In answer to your first question: because Trump is a coward. That's the first answer. The second answer is Trump is absolutely incompetent at The Art of the Deal, the book that he didn't write, that was ghost-written for him. If you want to get rid of a cabinet member and it's not because they've done something terrible that created a scandal, what you do is get them another position where they can't hurt you, so you make them Ambassador to Liechtenstein or something like that, and it's all great — they live a nice life, the people call them "Your Excellency," they dine well, and they're gone — if you can't in this case man up and actually fire people. Of course, that was his catch phrase, but that was reality TV, and the thing about reality TV is that it has nothing to do with reality. In reality, he is a very weak person.

Now, beyond that, the whole process is more insane substantively and on every conceivable level. Let's take first the excuses. One: "I want him gone because he didn't tell me he was going to recuse himself." Let's parse that.

SHARMINI PERIES: Wait, which he did six months ago when he took the job, he promised to recuse himself.

BILL BLACK: Yeah. "Because I wouldn't have appointed him had I known he was going to recuse himself." Well, A, at the time Sessions is appointed, he has no intention of recusing himself. It's not even an issue, so how is he supposed to tell the president? That's one. Two, once Sessions had met with the Russian Ambassador and had these other discussions and not disclosed them, he had a clear conflict of interest and he is required to recuse himself. Trump is saying he wants an attorney general ... Now, remind me that an attorney general is supposed to be the chief law enforcement officer. He wants an attorney general who won't follow the law. That's his A-number one requirement, which is true, but you're not supposed to say it out loud.

Let's go beyond that. "Why do I want someone with a conflict of interest? Well, because his job," says Trump, "is to protect me." Not to protect the Constitution, not to protect the people of the United States, but to protect the president who appointed him from the rule of law. That is so wrong on so many levels.

Next, what if he had done what the president wanted, had refused to recuse himself? It would've instantly been a political scandal. It was completely untenable. He had just lied to the Senate in the confirmation process. He got appointed on a straight party line vote. It would've destroyed everything Trump was trying to do. It's insane. It would still led to the appointment of a Special Counsel, but after some kind of Saturday night massacre that would have thrown the country and the administration into tumult.

Beyond that, what is he mad about, he, Trump? Well, he says, "I'm happy that I'm going after this guy who is the most loyal puppy dog ever, who's the first Senator to come out for me at a time when that was really hostile to other Senators like Cruz action, who presumably had much more claim on Sessions' support." Now Trump is insulting Sessions about that and saying, "Well, look, I got a crowd of 40,000 in Alabama. Sessions wasn't showing any kind of loyalty to me, backing me at a time when no one thought I could win, he was just trying to latch onto my big crowds. See? It's all me. I'm wonderful, and everybody else is a jerk."

Now, of course, this is demonstrating what is already becoming obvious, that the only people who are going to accept high-level positions in the Trump administration are the scum of the Earth, because your reputation is going to be utterly destroyed with anyone who actually cares about anything of substance, and that's even going to be true among thinking Republicans and such.

But he goes beyond that. "What do I really want him to do? I want him to squash an investigation of me." Well, why do you need to tell people to squash an investigation? Because the investigation has turned to your finances, and you know that ... What we're really seeing with Trump is the failure of prosecutors in the past, that if prosecutors in the past had done their job, Donald Trump would've been in prison for many years, would have multiple felony records, and would have never disgraced this nation as a president and such. Finally, prosecutors are waking up and looking at his finances, and he's gone berserk, because he can't stand to have his finances looked it.

But it gets worse. In addition to that defensive role, he wants his attorney general, Sessions, to have an attack dog role, and who does he want him to attack? He wants Sessions to go into the FBI, that's the McCabe, the Acting Director of the FBI, and say, "You can't be acting director because you're not a partisan Republican." Which, by the way, the FBI Director for the last 20 years roughly has been a Republican, two different Republicans, one of whom Trump fired, and the other of whom is investigating him as a Special Counsel. These are both rock-ribbed Republicans who were appointed and reappointed in some cases by Democrats as well as Republicans because it's supposed to be non-partisan. We don't want the FBI investigating people on political bases.

Then, finally, in terms of all of this, he, Trump, wants to direct the FBI Director, the new Republican partisan FBI Director, to prosecute prominent political opponents, including his opponent in the election. He wants us to become the kind of nation where if you win the election, you jail the opposition so that they can't run effectively against you, and you seize their money.

Of course, all of this is particularly bizarre because the Trump administration is having enormous difficulty getting any of its supposed agenda done, and the only person who is actively implementing the Trump agenda is Jeff Sessions. He's doing horrible things in public life, including trying to bring back these pre-judgment seizures where there's been no court case showing that you did anything wrong and they seize your car or they seize your home, they seize your boat, they seize your bank accounts, without any necessary hearing. Well, that's what Trump really wants, to go after Hillary Clinton, go after the Clinton Foundation, and just go ahead and seize all the money and such and blacken their names. That is what this whole thing is about.

On I think that's about nine different levels, even for the Trump administration, this exemplifies the worst, and it's only overshadowed by, of course, health insurance, where they're literally trying to kill tens of thousands of people per year by removing insurance for tens of millions of people.

SHARMINI PERIES: Bill, if Sessions were to resign under all of this pressure and the tweet war that's going on, one-way tweet war, there is speculation that former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani would replace him. What do you think of that and what it might mean to the Justice Department and law enforcement?

BILL BLACK: The nation has already dodged one bullet with regard to Giuliani. Giuliani put in, I think his name was Kelly, as head of police and security and such in New York when Giuliani was mayor, and then Kelly, if I've got the name right, was going to get appointed at the national level to one of the most senior positions in the government. Only then did again the prosecutors finally got around to doing their work and noting that Kelly had engaged in a string of felonies. The idea that you'd bring back Giuliani as your answer to corruption is tragicomedy to begin with.

Giuliani, however, in defense of Giuliani, has said that Sessions did absolutely the right thing in recusing himself and in appointing, or having Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy AG, appoint the Special Counsel to investigate and such. Giuliani is the type of person that conceivably would take the position because he has such a despicable reputation that he has nothing to lose, and the disease of wanting power and going after enemies is glorious to him. But, again, you're going to have to make sure the rules prevent any filibuster, because the Democrats would go berserk with a Giuliani appointment.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Bill. I thank you so much for joining us and illuminating this very interesting case going on. Thank you so much.

BILL BLACK: Thank you.

SHARMINI PERIES: Thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.


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