Donald Trump has mounted another extraordinary attack on his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, blaming him for charges against two congressmen that he said jeopardised Republican chances in the forthcoming midterm elections.
On Monday afternoon, the president tweeted: “Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff……
“….The Democrats, none of whom voted for Jeff Sessions, must love him now.”
In fact, one Democratic senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted for Sessions when he was confirmed as attorney general by a 52-47 vote in February 2017.
Trump did not name the congressmen he was talking about. But last month Duncan Hunter, a California representative, was charged with misuse of campaign funds while Chris Collins of New York was indicted for insider trading – over a share tip alleged to have been made in 2017, when Trump was in power.
The two men were Trump’s first supporters in the House. Hunter will run for re-election. Collins will step down.
Sessions, a former Alabama senator, was also one of the earliest supporters of Trump. But the president has attacked him repeatedly for his decision in March 2017 to recuse himself from oversight of the investigation into Russian election interference.
Sessions made that call after it was revealed he did not disclose to senators meetings with the Russian ambassador during the election campaign.
Trump indicated last week that he would fire Sessions after the midterm elections, a move some observers said might presage the firing of deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and the special counsel, Robert Mueller, whose work on links between Trump aides and Moscow has circled ever closer to Trump’s inner sanctum.
Some senior Republicans have indicated they would accept a move against Sessions, which would echo the infamous “Saturday night massacre” carried out by Richard Nixon against top law enforcement officials during his downfall in 1973. Some have said they would not.
On Monday, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a frequent Trump critic, said: “The United States is not some banana republic with a two-tiered system of justice – one for the majority party and one for the minority party.
“These two men have been charged with crimes because of evidence, not because of who the president was when the investigations began.”
Trump’s positive remarks about supporters charged with criminal wrongdoing echoed his comments about the case of Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman who was convicted last month on eight counts of tax and bank fraud brought by Mueller’s team. Trump praised Manafort for not “flipping” to testify against him, and told Fox News he thought the practice, common in criminal cases, should “almost” be illegal.
The president has not spoken positively of Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer who pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and violating campaign finance law brought by federal prosecutors in New York. Cohen said Trump directed him to make payments to women who claim to have had affairs with him.
Trump’s implication that the Department of Justice runs politically motivated investigations is contrary to stated DoJ policy.
Sessions issued a rare response to Trump’s threats and abuse last month, saying in a statement: “While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
On Monday afternoon, Trump was at the White House after what appeared to be a trip to his golf course in Virginia was called off, with vehicles and secret service agents waiting. The Washington Post reported that he spent the day watching television.
He also tweeted about the FBI director he fired in May 2017, writing: “Same thing with Lyin’ James Comey. The Dems all hated him, wanted him out, thought he was disgusting – UNTIL I FIRED HIM! Immediately he became a wonderful man, a saint like figure in fact. Really sick!”
The firing of Comey, which led to the appointment of Mueller, is one aspect of the special counsel’s investigation of whether Trump has attempted to obstruct justice in the Russia affair. The attacks on Sessions are also under scrutiny.
Nonetheless, on Twitter later on Monday, Trump cheerfully anticipated a race for re-election in 2020 against a former Democratic presidential candidate.
“I see that John Kerry, the father of the now terminated Iran deal, is thinking of running for President,” he wrote, referring to the former secretary of state and 2004 nominee’s failure to deny such ambitions while being interviewed about his new memoir on CBS the day before
“I should only be so lucky,” Trump wrote, “although the field that is currently assembling looks really good – FOR ME!”