If President Trump ever had any doubts about whether he needs Jeff Sessions, the attorney general put them to rest Tuesday.
Sessions, the normally mild-mannered Southern gentleman, came out on fire when he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He called the notion that he would have tolerated collusion between Russian hackers and the Trump campaign "an appalling and detestable lie."
"I recused myself from any investigation into the campaigns for president, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations," Sessions declared.
The testimony wasn't perfect — many a headline had Sessions refusing to answer questions about his conversations with the president — but it was firm, credible and loyal.
It also came after the White House let Sessions dangle for two days, initially refusing to confirm that the president had confidence in his attorney general. If Trump had let Sessions leave the administration, it would have advertised to the many Republican professionals the president still needs to fill numerous vacancies that loyalty in this administration is a one-way street.
Contrast this with Trump's treatment of former national security adviser Mike Flynn. Trump's reported intercessions on behalf of Flynn are now at the center of the Russia investigation.
Fired FBI Director James Comey testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee that Trump expressed "hope" that the bureau could let Flynn go.
Now special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly looking into whether Trump asked other officials, such as National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, to intervene and redirect the FBI away from Flynn.
Trump tweeted angrily Thursday morning that the "phony" charges of collusion with Russia have now given way to an equally fake campaign against obstruction of justice.
Obstruction of justice was one of the charges for which President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House in 1998.
Trump far more than Sessions set in motion the chain of events that led to the appointment of a special counsel.
It was Trump who undercut Sessions' and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's defensible rationale for firing Comey. The president repeatedly and publicly tied Comey's dismissal to the Russia probe, allegedly even to the Russians themselves.
It is Trump's blurring of the lines and disregard for protocols far more than Sessions' undisclosed meetings with Russian diplomats that strengthened the political case for a special counsel.
All this also did as much as those undisclosed meetings to make Sessions' eventual recusal, about which the president is said to be testy, inevitable.
It took months for Trump to even appear open to the possibility that there was Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, resenting it as an attempt to discredit his electoral success.
If investigators have yet to find an actual fire in the Russia investigation, Trump has billowed much of the smoke himself.
Sessions was the first important Washington figure to endorse Trump. He is the face of the administration's efforts to control immigration and reassert law and order. His fusion of traditional conservatism and economic populism was the precursor to Trumpism.
The attorney general gave up a safe Senate seat, to which he had just been re-elected with more than 97 percent of the vote, to serve Trump when other early loyalists seemed impossible to confirm.
Flynn at the very least seems to have been poorly vetted for the national security adviser: his financial ties to Russia and Turkey, undisclosed foreign payments and failure to register as a foreign lobbyist all should have been red flags for an administration under the Russia "cloud" from day one.
Trump's continuing sloppiness with regard to Flynn is the main reason Comey's repeated assurances that the president was not the target of an investigation may now ring hollow.
It is difficult to pin much, if any, of this on Sessions.
As Sessions' name has been dragged through the mud ever since he climbed aboard the Trump Train, it is time for the president to show him the loyalty he seems to have for Flynn.