Sessions AG pick missed chance to remove partisanship from Justice

The pendulum is swinging back to the right. That happens in elections, but in naming Alabama Senator Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGarland rescinds Trump-era memo curtailing consent decrees Biden picks vocal Trump critics to lead immigration agencies The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings MORE as his pick for attorney general, President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSt. Louis lawyer who pointed gun at Black Lives Matter protesters considering Senate run Chauvin found guilty as nation exhales US says Iran negotiations are 'positive' MORE has missed a golden opportunity to achieve the most-needed reform in the federal government, and the loss of this opportunity has nothing to do with whether Senator Sessions is qualified for the post.

“Elections have consequences.” Yeah, I get that. I also understand that “to the victors go the spoils.” It is the winning presidential candidate’s option to fill his cabinet with like-minded and loyal supporters, and we hope that he does so with competent managers. Except for the Department of Justice.


In 2015, I retired from the DOJ after more than 25 years of service as an Assistant United States Attorney. I had planned to serve longer, but instead retired a year short of my full retirement date, as that date was defined by Social Security computations. The reasons for my premature departure had nothing to do with the extraordinary people with whom it was my great pleasure to work, at least in the “worker bee” ranks.

The reason I left the job I loved had everything to do with the corruption of the Department of Justice by the Obama/Holder/Lynch administration into something almost unrecognizable. Instead of honoring their oaths to uphold the laws of the United States, these individuals and their minions chose to ignore the laws with which they had political or philosophical differences, whether those laws concerned immigration, national security, or drug or weapons crimes.

It seemed as though every policy decision inflicted upon the nation by the administration was driven — not by a motivation to keep the country safe and secure — but by this clique’s stated desire to reform the nation into something that they preferred for political — and often racial — reasons.

I also became increasingly convinced that the Department’s ethics were compromised at the highest levels. My feelings were verified in the severe conflicts of interests which were brought to light during the presidential campaign in the form of the ties between Loretta Lynch and the Clintons, Peter Kadzik and John Podesta, and Deputy FBI Director McCabe and the Clintons through Terry McAuliffe.

The Obama Department of Justice was the most politicized agency I saw during almost three decades of federal service, and politics – when it comes to justice – is nothing less than an infection. 

That infection could have been cured by the removal of the office of the Attorney General and the DOJ from the president’s cabinet, a move that would have convinced many that Mr. Trump’s aim to “drain the swamp” was a real goal with the elimination of corruption in mind.

Fifty years of recent history shows that such a move is overdue, after abuses by both political parties.

Janet Reno, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tensions rise as U.S. waits for Derek Chauvin verdict Obama, Clinton reflect on Mondale's legacy Polls suggest House Democrats will buck midterm curse and add to their ranks MORE’s attorney general, authorized the assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, and rejected calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate allegations regarding illegal campaign financing donations to the Clintons by John Huang.

Alberto Gonzalez, George W. Bush’s Attorney General, dismissed United States Attorneys for purely political reasons and then tried to disavow knowledge of the process, blaming his actions on career DOJ attorneys. Gonzalez’ claims of non-involvement were false, and he was forced to resign under pressure.

Eric Holder’s “Smart On Crime” initiative resulted in the early release and/or reduced sentences for hundreds of convicted felons, many of whom were large-scale drug traffickers. Holder oversaw the ridiculous Operation Fast and Furious, which resulted in the sale of hundreds of firearms to Mexican drug cartel members. Holder refused to release records regarding the scandal, and was held in contempt of Congress.

Holder’s replacement, Loretta Lynch, held the notorious meeting on the tarmac with Bill Clinton, at a time when Clinton’s wife and foundation were under FBI investigation.

Nixon’s former Attorney General John Mitchell was sentenced to prison for his role in the Watergate scandal, and was disbarred by the State of New York. Suffice it to say that neither party has had the proverbial “clean hands” in seeking justice over partisan politics.

The office of the Attorney General was created by an act of Congress in 1789, and the Department of Justice was created by another act of Congress in 1870. Accordingly, only another act of Congress is required to move the position and the department.

Making the department an independent operating agency, led by an Attorney General reporting to Congress, could obviate any need for the appointment of any special prosecutor to investigate wrongdoing in the executive branch. This move would also eliminate repeated claims by of executive privilege, blocking Congress from getting the records needed to perform its oversight functions.   

In appointing Senator Sessions, Mr. Trump has added yet another political partisan to the list of attorneys general. Had a neutral, career prosecutor been appointed to the post, any sensitive prosecutions to follow — such as an indictment of Mrs. Clinton or the Clinton Foundation — could pass muster with the credible assertion that the DOJ was only following the evidence where it led them.

Regardless of the legal merit of such prosecutions, even if the Senator tries to assure his colleagues (in his confirmation hearings) and the country that he will simply follow the evidence, his words will never be taken as being free from political infection.

Had the President-elect chosen to endorse the creation of an independent DOJ, with an Attorney General who did not arise from the political sphere, the country — and the Department — could have been better for it, with Lady Justice replacing the blindfold that had been pulled from her by the previous administration.

Senator Sessions may be affirmed and he may do a fine job, but for now, the pendulum is free to keep swinging.

Charles Ambrose is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, a former USAF JAG officer, and served for twenty-five years as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia and in the Western District of Missouri. He is the author — under his pen name Marc Rainer — of a series of contemporary, historical, crime novels available on His latest book is A Winter of Wolves.


The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill