Trump Says Sessions Let Him Down But Won't Say If He'll Be FiredBy and
President wants attorney general to crack down on leaks
‘Time will tell’ if Sessions stays in job, Trump says
President Donald Trump said he’s disappointed with Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and that “time will tell” if the nation’s top law enforcement officer remains in his job.
“He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office and if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me before taking office and I quite simply would have picked someone else,” Trump said Tuesday during a joint press conference at the White House with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
He did not answer questions about whether he wanted Sessions to quit or planned to fire him.
“I want the attorney general to be much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking like rarely have they ever leaked before on a very important level,” Trump said. “I told you before I’m very disappointed. But we will see what happens. Time will tell.”
Trump has unleashed a torrent of public criticism against his attorney general over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the federal investigation of Russian meddling in the presidential election. His attacks have escalated into an apparent campaign to pressure Sessions to quit.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning.
White House aides say Trump believes that Sessions’s recusal has allowed the Russia probe to expand and intensify, sweeping up his top officials and members of his family. Trump’s attacks on Sessions, who served in the Senate and was head of the Judiciary Committee, stirred a backlash from several conservative senators whose support the president needs to get his agenda through Congress.
Senator Richard Shelby announced via Twitter his “deep respect and unwavering support” for his fellow Alabamian. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham called Sessions “a rock-solid conservative” who “believes in the rule of law.” Graham said Trump’s suggestion in a tweet that the attorney general prosecute Hillary Clinton was “highly inappropriate.”
Sessions, 70, has so far indicated he has no intention of stepping down, saying last week that he would continue to “wholeheartedly” support Trump’s priorities. “We love this job. We love this department. And I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate,” he said.
On Monday, Trump called Sessions “beleaguered” in a tweet.
After Sessions stepped away from the investigation and Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Bob Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the election and whether Trump or his associates collaborated with the Kremlin.
Trump has criticized Mueller and some of the lawyers he has hired, saying they have conflicts of interest. Some lawyers on Mueller’s team have donated to Democrats in the past.
In an interview last week with the New York Times, Trump said Mueller had “many other conflicts that I haven’t said,” stirring speculation he may consider firing him.
Only Rosenstein can fire Mueller, and he’s said he won’t do it without “good cause.” So Trump would likely first have to remove Rosenstein and possibly purge the upper ranks of the Justice Department until he finds someone willing to follow his orders and dismiss the special counsel.
Mueller’s investigation has expanded to examine a broad range of transactions involving the president’s businesses, including dealings by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a person familiar with the probe told Bloomberg News. Trump told the Times that if Mueller examined his family’s finances beyond any relationship with Russia he’d consider it “a violation.”
— With assistance by Steven T. Dennis, Mark Niquette, Greg Farrell, Christian Berthelsen, and Justin Sink