As is the case with many of my fellow Alabamians, I am a strong supporter of President Trump in the substance of what he has accomplished but I am from time to time disappointed by his style. The President’s repeated attacks on my old friend, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself when he was Attorney General from an investigation in which he was also a subject and a witness are a good example. In addition to our friendship, I also have the perspective of being a member of the Alabama State Bar for more than fifty years. I therefore cannot stand mute as the President criticizes this highly respected member of the Alabama State Bar for courageously adhering to the rule of law.
What adds to my frustration is the reality that Jeff’s compliance with the law was essential to the favorable result of complete and wholly credible exoneration desperately needed by the President in the investigation of the charges of collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia. The Mueller Report stated, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” No one has even hinted that the Mueller Report should be dismissed as the product of bias in favor of the President.
Had Jeff ignored ethical standards and led the investigation the media would have swiftly and derisively dismissed any ensuing exoneration as the product of pro-Trump bias. The charges of Russia collusion would then have been a large part, if not exclusively, the basis for the recent impeachment proceedings. The charges of collusion were never mentioned. These charges would also be an ongoing issue in the 2020 election; they are not mentioned because the Mueller Report came up empty. The ordeal of the Mueller investigation to which the President was exposed, while extremely painful, pales in comparison to the trauma of having had the issue of collusion the focus of the impeachment proceedings and then again front and center in the coming election.
The President’s wrath, while understandable, is, I respectfully submit, misplaced. His anger should not be directed toward Jeff; it should be focused entirely on the officials of the Obama administration who clandestinely set up the groundless allegations of Russia collusion in the days, weeks and months before Jeff became Attorney General and Donald Trump became President. We who support the President’s agenda should be grateful to Jeff Sessions, the man whose faithful discharge of his duty made possible the President’s complete and total exoneration by a panel not remotely subject to attack for bias.
Jeff’s courageous and selfless stance in support of the rule of law led to the conclusive rejection of the serious charge of corruption of a presidential election. His conduct incidentally benefitted the President but, most of all, it benefited the United States of America to whom his oath required faithful service. His adherence to the rule of law is a wonderful example for all members of the Alabama State Bar and is justifiable cause for great pride on the part of all Alabama citizens, regardless of political persuasion. Jeff deserves to be commended, not condemned.
Champ Lyons, Jr. was an Associate Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court from 1998-2011. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Alabama School of Law.