President Trump has launched his most aggressive attack yet on Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Veuer’s Chandra Lanier has the story.
WASHIGNTON – President Donald Trump reignited his criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying he doesn’t have a top law enforcement officer and blasting Sessions’ performance on border security, in an interview with Hill.TV.
Trump has long criticized Sessions for his March 2017 decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. That recusal eventually led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who continues to investigate what Trump has called a “witch hunt.”
But Trump broadened his criticism in an exclusive interview Tuesday with Hill.TV to include his performance on border security and in responding to questions from Congress.
“I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “I’m not happy at the border, I’m not happy with numerous things, not just this.”
Trump repeated the criticism Wednesday as he departed for North Carolina, to inspect hurricane damage.
“I’m disappointed in the attorney general for many reasons,” Trump said.
When reporters asked whether he would fire Sessions, Trump said: “We are looking at lots of different things.”
The Justice Department declined comment. Sessions did not take questions later Wednesday at a law enforcement conference in Waukegan, Ill. But in prepared remarks that Sessions was set to deliver to officers there, the attorney general had nothing but favorable comments for his boss, suggesting that the Trump administration had served to boost police officer morale.
In the Hill.TV interview, Trump noted that Sessions was the first senator to endorse his campaign, and it was Sessions’ work on the campaign that prompted him to remove himself from decisions about the investigation.
During his confirmation hearings, Sessions failed to mention two meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. In announcing his recusal, Sessions said he hadn’t meant to mislead senators over the meetings.
During the Hill.TV interview, Trump said Sessions “did very poorly” during the confirmation process.
“I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers,” Trump said. “Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein became the lead Justice official on the Russian investigation because of Sessions’ recusal. He appointed Mueller after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.
Trump continued to argue that Sessions didn’t need to recuse himself, which could have prevented Mueller’s investigation. In an early 2017 email to a Sessions aide, which was made public last December, the FBI concluded that Sessions did not need to reveal contacts with foreign government officials that were made in the course of his work as a senator.
“And now it turned out he didn’t have to recuse himself,” Trump told Hill.TV. “Actually, the FBI reported shortly thereafter any reason for him to recuse himself. And it’s very sad what happened.”
Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee in April that he didn’t recuse himself because of asserted wrongdoing, but because a Justice Department regulation “required it.” The regulation states that no employee shall participate in a criminal investigation if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization that is substantially involved that would be affected by the outcome.
For his part, Sessions has continued to do his job while ignoring questions about whether Trump may fire him. Sessions said last month that he would “not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
“I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the president’s agenda – one that protects the safety and security and rights of the American people, reduces violent crime, enforces our immigration laws, promotes economic growth, and advances religious liberty,” Sessions said in a written statement.
On Monday, Trump ordered the release of documents involving FBI and Justice Department officials he claims targeted him in the Russia investigation. He said those documents, as well as texts from former FBI agent Peter Strzok, show that the probe is a “hoax, beyond a witch hunt.”
The president told Hill.TV that he hopes his confrontation with the FBI will be seen as “one of my crowning achievements” because he was able to “expose something that is a truly a cancer in our country.”
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