Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems to have learned a very important lesson of Trumpworld in his three months or so as the nation’s top cop: Never, ever apologize.
Twenty four hours after referring dismissively to Hawaii as “an island in the Pacific” as part of a broader condemnation of the judicial blockade against the implementation of President Trump’s travel ban, Sessions was given a chance to revise and extend those comments.
Here’s how Sessions responded to a question from CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Friday about whether his comments disrespected the judge (and the state):
“No, I think the island is a fabulous place. I’ve got a granddaughter born there. But I’ve got to tell you, it is a point worth making that a single sitting district judge out of 600, 700 district judges, can issue an order stopping a presidential executive order that I believe is fully constitutional, designed to protect the United States of America from terrorist attack. And I was just raising the point of that issue of a single judge.”
Bolduan tried another tack with Sessions. “Do you wish you had phrased it differently now?” she asked.
“I don’t know that I said anything that I would want to phrase differently,” Sessions replied. “No.”
Remember that Sessions knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Bolduan would ask about his Hawaii comments when he agreed to the interview. Which means he had a clear strategy to not say “sorry” and to, in fact, double down on the idea that it was offensive to him that one judge could have so much power.
What’s fascinating to me about how Sessions handled this latest flap is how obviously it was influenced by his decision to recuse himself from Justice Department investigations regarding the 2016 election after it was revealed he had forgotten to make clear he huddled with the Russian ambassador on two occasions.
Trump insisted Sessions had done nothing wrong and had no reason to recuse himself shortly before the former Alabama Senator did just that. And, according to CNN reporting, it set Trump off. This comes from a March 6 CNN piece:
President Donald Trump is extremely frustrated with his senior staff and communications team for allowing the firestorm surrounding Attorney General Jeff Sessions to steal his thunder in the wake of his address to Congress, sources tell CNN.
“Nobody has seen him that upset,” one source said, adding the feeling was the communications team allowed the Sessions news, which the administration deemed a nonstory, to overtake the narrative.
Trump is a firm believer in a “no apologies” strategy on, well, life, the universe and everything. He believes apologies – or, in this case, recusals – make you look weak, embolden your enemies and fuel the story. Declare victory and move on is the Trump way,
Sessions clearly has internalized that Trump philosophy – likely as a survival tactic in dealing with his new boss. And, while his “no retreat, no surrender” approach with Bolduan on Friday won’t likely win him any new fans, it will endear himself to the only person whose opinion truly matters in the White House: Donald John Trump.