Impeachment is hard. But c’mon, people! We cannot be so resistant to constitutional duty that we render toothless the most powerful tool we have for holding lawless, demented, and dangerous officials to account. There have to instances in which impeachment by the House of Representatives, trial by the Senate, and removal of the reprehensible are warranted.
Rarely in our history have they been more warranted than in the case of Jeff Sessions, the attorney general who lies, and lies, and lies to Congress.
Sessions is a famously dishonest, and destructive, political careerist. In the 1980s, when he tried to convince the Senate Judiciary Committee that he wasn’t a racist who had abused his position as a US Attorney in Alabama to prosecute voting-rights activists, the Republican-controlled committee saw through his claims of impartiality and personal decency and rejected him as a nominee for a federal judgeship.
But that was a more enlightened time. Standards have been lowered—dramatically—since the Reagan years. Respect for a system of checks and balances that demanded strict oversight and review by senators from both parties has declined. This explains how Sessions was handed the keys to the Department of Justice earlier this year.
It does not, however, explain why Sessions has been allowed to remain as attorney general since it was revealed that he lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee that weighed his nomination to serve as Donald Trump’s top law-enforcement officer. The initial reports on the lies Sessions told with regard to his meetings with Russians when he was campaigning for Trump in 2016—he denied any such meetings, only to have it revealed that he hung out with the Russian ambassador during the Republican National Convention—should have led to the attorney general’s resignation or impeachment. But he dodged that accountability moment by “recusing” himself from inquiries into Russian influence on the campaign.
Sessions then violated his own recusal and participated in the scheming to remove James Comey from his position as FBI director—in a move that Trump admitted was all wrapped up with “this Russia thing.” At that point, resignation or impeachment was not merely appropriate, it was necessary. Yet Sessions again dodged accountability.