Bauer on Sen. Sessions as AG Who Acts as Policy and Politics “Clearinghouse”

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Mr. Bannon was responding to a question posed by the Washington Post and inspired, apparently, by the AG nominee’s part in fashioning President Trump’s policy agenda. Mr. Bannon is reported to have described Senator Sessions as “the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy” in the Administration. He does not, it seems, mean only what the Senator did to develop and promote the Trump policy agenda during the campaign. Bannon refers specifically to Session as the “clearinghouse…for policy and philosophy to undergird the implementation of that agenda.” He goes on to connect this function to the “birth of a new political order.”

This is a striking job description for an Attorney General. It would put Senator Sessions in the middle of the politics and policy of the Administration–and of all kinds, not only matters that might bear on his duties as AG, such as the President’s policy toward legalized marijuana or criminal sentencing. Perhaps there have been instances in the past when the AG’s role has been so defined, but they do not spring to mind. And the reason is that an AG whose portfolio is that comprehensive and, at bottom, political in nature–who is described as one of the leading advisers in the birthing of “a new political order”–cannot reasonably be expected to prize, much less defend, “independence” on even a limited construction of the norm. It is not easy to see what would be left of the distance between the Department and the White House.

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