Firing Sessions Would Only Re-Stoke the Flames of a Cooling ‘Russiagate’ Probe

Firing Sessions Would Only Re-Stoke the Flames of a Cooling ‘Russiagate’ Probe

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

President Trump should not fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for this reason: the investigation into all things Russian may have reached a tipping point. Jared Kushner’s credible denial of any wrongdoing on Monday before the Senate Intelligence Committee all but squashed fevered speculation that Trump’s son-in-law had colluded with Russian agents.

With Donald Jr.’s much-hyped meeting with a Russian operative also shown to be misguided but non-sinister, it’s unlikely that the probe will get any closer to President Trump, much to the annoyance of Democrats.  After more than a year of surveillance and snooping into the Trump diaspora, the FBI has come up empty-handed. If they have hard evidence that collusion occurred, surely in this leaky world we would know it by now.

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Also, firing Sessions would be mean-spirited and disruptive of the already shaky White House. He has been a loyalist, and is moving on many fronts especially important to Trump, such as aggressively rounding up gang members and going after Medicaid and Medicare fraudsters.  The Attorney General has also had the president’s back on immigration policy. Trump is understandably frustrated by the ongoing Russian probe, and by the intrusions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but it’s not Sessions who pushed the faux bromance with Putin; Trump did that himself, mainly to poke Hillary Clinton. Many Trump allies (like Rudy Giuliani) have confirmed that Sessions was right to recuse himself. Trump should move on and stop tormenting one of his earliest supporters.

Meanwhile, the political juice from the Russia investigations is drying up. There is growing evidence that the accusations of collusion and threats of impeachment are backfiring on Democrats. For sure, some otherwise little-known politicians may continue to flog the Russia inquiry, eager to stay in the spotlight. Representative Adam Schiff, for instance, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has logged 123 interviews on national TV since January, for a total of 14 hours of invaluable exposure. You can be sure Schiff will not give up the hunt.

And, the liberal media will gladly push any new “revelations” because the story has boosted circulation. Paul Manaforte has been subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and that will provide more stories full of innuendo and suppositions from anonymous sources. But, unless there are shocking new (real) connections, the public’s fascination with this Trump chapter may have crested.  

It would be stupid to revive the hysteria over the Russia inquiry by firing Sessions just as the story begins to cool.

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Nothing points in that direction more convincingly than Chuck Schumer’s pivot to providing a new Democratic platform and roll-out of his “Better Deal,” a completely lame compilation of tired Democratic nostrums for our soggy economy. Schumer has seen the polls, and has had an epiphany. He now knows that Hillary Clinton did not lose because of sexism, or Comey, or Putin; she lost because she had no message. It’s a wonder it took him so long.

The problem with the “Better Deal” is not just that it sounds a lot like Paul Ryan’s “Better Way.” It’s that it contains much of what Hillary campaigned on and in some instances what the Trump White House is pushing – a higher minimum wage, lower drug costs, more job training, paid family leave and increased infrastructure spending. It’s not that all of those ideas are terrible, but they are definitely not original. Schumer is pouring weak tea, when Democrats could really use a strong Bourbon.

The most notable departure from Hillary’s playbook is Schumer’s idiosyncratic invective against corporate mergers, which he blames for higher consumer prices. He oddly calls out the cost of airline tickets, which in fact dropped 50 percent over the 30 years ending in 2013 – a dramatic collapse that spurred the very airline mergers Schumer opposes. 

Similarly, addressing gasoline prices, Schumer wonders in a recent interview, “Why the heck did we let Exxon and Mobil merge?” He claimed just the other day that “gasoline prices never go down,” but in fact, gas prices over the 4th of July holiday were the lowest since 2005. It’s shocking that Schumer didn’t even do his homework. Honestly, does he think challenging the 1999 Exxon-Mobil merger is going to resonate with voters?

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Schumer trotted out his Better Deal because, astonishingly, Democrats are failing to capitalize on President Trump’s unpopularity. Bloomberg polling shows the party’s approval ratings stuck at 42% over the past year. Gallup surveys, meanwhile, report that Democrats’ approval rating has actually dropped five points since the election, while the GOP rating has held constant. Dems now top the GOP by one point; historically they have enjoyed on average a six-point lead.   

The most revealing poll though, and the one that appears to have spurred Schumer to action, is the ABC/Washington Post survey in which only 37 percent of respondents say the Democratic Party “stands for something”, while 52 percent says it only “stands against Trump.”  That is devastating, but not surprising. Democrat energies have been spent demonizing Trump, rather than trying to win back disaffected voters. 

Gallup theorizes that party members are discouraged that Democrats are in the minority, and therefore not powerful. But after Barrack Obama’s election, GOP ratings jumped, as the Tea Party alarmed Americans about mounting deficits and our bleak fiscal future.

Fueled by that energy, Republicans took back the House of Representatives in 2010, winning a net total of 63 seats -- the highest loss of a party in a House midterm election since 1938.

That’s what Democrats would like to do in 2018. But first, they need to find a message. The Better Deal won’t cut it.