Trump Grows Discontented With Attorney General Jeff Sessions

President Trump with Attorney General Jeff Sessions at an event on Capitol Hill last month. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

Few Republicans were quicker to embrace President Trump’s campaign last year than Jeff Sessions, and his reward was one of the most prestigious jobs in America. But more than four months into his presidency, Mr. Trump has grown sour on Mr. Sessions, now his attorney general, blaming him for various troubles that have plagued the White House.

The discontent was on display on Monday in a series of stark early-morning postings on Twitter in which the president faulted his own Justice Department for its defense of his travel ban on visitors from certain predominantly Muslim countries. Mr. Trump accused Mr. Sessions’s department of devising a “politically correct” version of the ban — as if the president had nothing to do with it.

In private, the president’s exasperation has been even sharper. He has intermittently fumed for months over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people close to Mr. Trump who insisted on anonymity to describe internal conversations. In Mr. Trump’s view, they said, it was that recusal that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation.

Behind-the-scenes frustration would not be unprecedented in the Oval Office. Other presidents have become estranged from the Justice Department over time, notably President Bill Clinton, who bristled at Attorney General Janet Reno’s decisions to authorize investigations into him and his administration, among other things. But Mr. Trump’s tweets on Monday made his feelings evident for all to see and raised questions about how he is managing his own administration.

Read the complete article on The New York Times news site.

 

Jeff Sessions fiasco

Donald Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions twice spoke with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign. Sessions is another Trump appointee raising questions about Trump and Russia connection.

The Washington Post, citing justice department officials, first reported that Sessions met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak once in September 2016, when US intelligence officials were investigating Russian interference in the presidential election, and once in the summer of that year.

It was communications with Kislyak that led to the firing of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in February.

A spokeswoman for Sessions confirmed that the meetings took place, but provided a statement from the attorney general saying they were not related to the election campaign.

Sessions, a former senator from Alabama who was among Trump’s early and most vocal surrogates on the campaign trail, did not disclose the conversations when asked under oath during his Senate confirmation hearing in early 2017 about possible contacts between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, called for Sessions’ resignation. “After lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the attorney general must resign,” she said.

“Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign. There must be an independent, bipartisan, outside commission to investigate the Trump political, personal and financial connections to the Russians.”

The White House swiftly rejected the reports as an effort to undermine Trump’s speech before Congress on Tuesday night, which was reviewed favourably by the US media despite signalling no substantive shift in policy.

“This is the latest attack against the Trump administration by partisan Democrats,” a senior administration official said, according to CNN.

“Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate armed services committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony.”

When Sessions was asked during his 10 January testimony to the Senate judiciary committee how he would respond if he learned of communications between the Trump campaign and Russian officials leading up to the election, he said he was “not aware of any of those activities”.

He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

rump’s friendly posture toward Russia has sounded alarms across the US and frequently proved a source of consternation among members of his own party.

The president has routinely praised his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Following his victory in November, Trump nominated Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state – a former CEO of ExxonMobil with close ties to Russia.

Trump’s administration has also refused to categorically rule out lifting sanctions imposed against Russia by the Obama administration, prompting bipartisan efforts to ratify those sanctions into law.

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site.

Trump administration rescinds transgender students’ bathroom protections

Protests as Trump revokes guidelines on transgender bathrooms.

The Trump administration has withdrawn a piece of federal guidance requiring transgender students to have unfettered access to bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity, in a move that could embolden many schools to restrict trans rights.

In doing so, the administration has signaled that it does not necessarily interpret current federal civil rights protections as prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity.

A joint letter released by the departments of justice and education on Wednesday cited the legal battle on this question as justification for rescinding the guidance, “in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved”.

“In addition, the Departments believe that … there must be due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing education policy,” the letter added.

The Obama administration issued the guidance in May 2016, in response to growing confusion and controversy over how schools should accommodate transgender students. The letter released on Wednesday left one major piece of that guidance intact: a recognition that schools bear some responsibility to prevent bullying and harassment of transgender students.

LGBT rights groups on Wednesday assailed the administration.

“This is a mean-spirited attack on hundreds of thousands of students who simply want to be their true selves and be treated with dignity while attending school,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “These young people already face incredible hurdles in their pursuit of education and acceptance. With a pen stroke, the Trump Administration effectively sanctions the bullying, ostracizing, and isolation of these children, putting their very lives in danger.”

David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Souther Poverty Law Center, said in a statement that by rescinding the guidance “the administration has contributed to the baseless hysteria and panic that puts so many vulnerable transgender youth at risk”.

The White House’s expected move comes one week after Jeff Sessions, the newly appointed attorney general, quietly withdrew the Department of Justice’s participation in the Obama guidance’s legal defence. More than 20 states have challenged the guidance, which applies to all federally funded public schools, in federal court, and the guidance has been blocked by a federal judge. The justice department is no longer asking for a stay of that judge’s decision.

Sessions, who has long been hostile to LGBT rights, reportedly fought for Wednesday’s order over the objections of Betsy DeVos, the new education secretary. The report, by the New York Times, claimed that DeVos asked to preserve protections for students against bullying but was overruled by the president, who sided with his attorney general.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted on Wednesday that DeVos was onboard.

But on Wednesday, a tweet from Devos suggested otherwise:

Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED)

I consider protecting all students, including #LGBTQ students, not only a key priority for the Department, but for every school in America.

February 23, 2017

States that are suing to block the guidance have called it an intrusion of the federal government and a threat to the bodily privacy of students who are not transgender.

LGBT advocates say there is no evidence of transgender-inclusive policies causing privacy invasions for other students.

James Esseks, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT litigation, said in May: “There have been no disruptions, increases in public safety incidents, nor invasions of privacy related to protections for transgender people. While the Obama administration is being sued, the real targets here are vulnerable young people and adults who simply seek to live their lives free from discrimination when they go to school, work or the restroom.”

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site here.