From publicly attacking a member of his own cabinet to delivering a partisan speech to a gathering of Boy Scouts, Donald Trump has shown once again it’s no longer business as usual in Washington.
Trump has rewritten the political rule book since launching his long-shot bid for the White House two years ago, but the Republican president has broken new ground with his actions this week.
Tarring his perceived enemies with mocking nicknames like “Crooked Hillary,” “Lying Ted” and “Little Marco” has been part of the Trump playbook since Day One.
But the public ridiculing of his latest target — his hand-picked attorney general, Jeff Sessions — has left even some of Trump’s own supporters scratching their heads.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday in his latest salvo against the former senator from Alabama.
Sessions was one of Trump’s earliest allies, backing him at a time when few thought the New York real estate tycoon had a serious shot at winning the Republican nomination — much less the White House.
Trump hasn’t coined an insulting moniker for Sessions yet — like those above for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and his Republican primary rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
But he has gone after him repeatedly since last week, when he blasted his top law enforcement official over his decision to recuse himself from the federal probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump told The New York Times.
“It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.”
Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation in March after failing to disclose during his confirmation hearing that he had met twice with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.
A special counsel, former FBI director Robert Mueller, is now conducting the Russia probe, and Trump apparently blames Sessions for failing to head off what he considers a “political witch hunt.”
Trump’s drumbeat of criticism against Sessions has met with some consternation among the president’s own conservative supporters.
“You could make a great case that (Sessions) didn’t need to (recuse himself),” radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh said Monday.
“But it’s also kind of, you know, a little bit discomforting, unseemly, for Trump to go after such a loyal supporter this way.”
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said it is “unprecedented” for a president to undercut a sitting cabinet member in this fashion.
“This public humiliation, teasing the firing, is unprecedented,” Sabato told AFP. “You can’t find a president who is this disloyal to someone who was with him from the beginning.”
Besides the unrelenting attacks on Sessions, Trump also raised eyebrows with a highly partisan address Monday night to tens of thousands of Boy Scouts attending a “jamboree” in West Virginia.
Trump attacked the “fake news” media, Barack Obama, Clinton and other favorite targets during his address to the Boy Scouts, whose Facebook page was deluged Tuesday with comments critical of the president’s appearance.
“You talk to Boy Scouts about patriotism and the flag,” Sabato said. “What does he talk about? He turns it into a political rally.
“This is completely inappropriate for a president,” Sabato said. “These are kids. It’s inappropriate.”
Inappropriate was also the word Republican Senator Lindsey Graham used to describe Trump’s call for the attorney general to prosecute Hillary Clinton.
During their bitter election battle, Trump had called for Clinton to be brought up on charges over her use of a private email server while secretary of state. A favorite chant of his supporters was “Lock her up” — one he did not silence.
Trump dropped the idea after reaching the White House, but he has returned to it in recent days as the probe intensifies into his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.
Graham said Trump’s tweet “suggesting Attorney General Sessions pursue prosecution of a former political rival is highly inappropriate.
“Prosecutorial decisions should be based on applying facts to the law without hint of political motivation,” Graham said. “To do otherwise is to run away from the long-standing American tradition of separating the law from politics regardless of party.”
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