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Why Jeff Sessions Won’t Quit –Yet

Jeff Sessions
(Flickr/Gage Skidmore) Jeff Sessions

Jeff Sessions won’t quit yet, even though his boss publicly wishes he hadn’t hired him.

In an interview with the New York Times, President Trump said he wouldn’t have hired Sessions as Attorney General if he knew Sessions would have recused himself from the Russia inquiry.

However, Trump did not accept a March offer made by Sessions to quit. Trump probably didn’t want to deal with the headache of appointing someone.  Still, Sessions could have left if he didn’t want Trump as a boss.

Jeff Sessions doesn’t need the job of Attorney General for money or prestige. He has a biography that could have let him quit easily.  Friends and allies from decades of public life would have ensured a comfortable perch for him.

But it is unlikely that any non-Cabinet position would have allowed Sessions to pursue the Republican agenda items he favors. Being Attorney General gives Sessions the opportunity to take policy measures to favor extreme Republican interests.

Advancing the Republican Agenda

Three areas where Sessions’ Republican agenda match with Trump are notable: crime and punishment, immigration, and civil rights.

Crime and Punishment

First, under Sessions, the Justice Department has taken a notably harsher stance on crime and punishment. In keeping with the general Trump tendency to stoke fear, he has cited statistics out of context. This has painted a picture of crime run amok.

The other side of the coin to Jeff Sessions’ crime-and-punishment agenda is the notably softer police oversight under his Justice Department. From his perspective, consent decrees and broad investigations of police departments undermine their effectiveness.


Second, immigration is another area of convergence for Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration. Sessions has been a long-time critic of US immigration policy. Unlike some Republicans, he is even opposed to legal immigration.

Under Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department has gone after so-called “sanctuary cities.” In these cities, checking immigration status is not a priority for local police.

Civil Rights

Third, Civil rights also appear to be a low priority under Jeff Sessions.  The proposed budget for the Justice Department is a strong indicator of this lack of interest. The funding for the civil rights division is only marginally increased. It will lose more than a hundred staff members.

Republicans like Jeff Sessions and Trump are also obsessed with voter fraud and back voter ID laws. Under Sessions, the Justice Department has signaled it supports state efforts to introduce voter ID law.  One important example of this changed emphasis was when the Department dropped an Obama-era challenge to a voter ID law in Texas.

Sessions Won’t Quit — For Now

Republicans continue to back Jeff Sessions. Even as Trump criticized him, Republicans sprang to his defense.

For Jeff Sessions and Republicans, it makes good sense for Sessions to remain in his position. For it is a powerful position from which to advance the Republican agenda on crime, immigration, and civil and voting rights. All you have to do is to ignore the public jibes of your boss.