Trump intensifies criticism of his own attorney general
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump took a new swipe at Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday, referring to him in a tweet as “beleaguered” and wondering why Sessions isn’t digging into Hillary Clinton’s alleged contacts with Russia.
Fuming about the ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and questions as to whether his campaign colluded with foreign officials, Trump again focused his ire on Sessions, who was once one of the president’s closest allies.
“So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?” Trump tweeted Monday. His tweet came just hours before his son-in-law, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, traveled to Capitol Hill to be interviewed about his meetings with Russians.
During an event at the White House, Trump ignored a shouted question about whether Sessions should resign.
The president’s tweet about Sessions comes less than a week after Trump, in a New York Times interview, criticized Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe, saying he should never have taken the job as attorney general. Sessions recused himself from the investigation earlier this year after it was revealed that he had met with a top Russian diplomat last year.
The attorney general said last week that he planned to stay in the post.
Trump has seethed about Sessions’ decision for months, viewing it as disloyal — arguably the most grievous offense in the president’s mind — and resenting that the attorney general did not give the White House a proper heads-up before making the announcement that he would recuse himself.
President Trump’s broadsides aimed at top officials at the Justice Department raise questions about his relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and possible connections with the Trump campaign. Judy Woodruff speaks with Walter Dellinger of O’Melveny & Myers and Doug Kmiec of Pepperdine School of Law.
The men have not spoken since the publication of the Times interview, according to Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. And their conversations in recent weeks have been infrequent as Trump has been unable to forget the attorney general’s action, according to three White House and outside advisers.
The men used to be close: Sessions first appeared with Trump at a rally in the then-senator’s home state of Alabama in August 2015, an event that drew a massive crowd and was, for many members of Trump’s inner circle, one of the first signs that their candidate was catching on.
Sessions then became the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump and a frequent campaign adviser. When Trump was elected, Sessions was given a pick of prime Cabinet spots and expressed interest in being attorney general, giving up a safe Senate seat and decades of seniority.
The broadside against Sessions in the interview was not a calculated ploy to force the attorney general to resign but rather Trump’s frustration with his longtime ally bubbling to the surface, according to the advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Several people close to Trump — including his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, who has also been ensnared in the Russia probe — have also told the president that they believe Sessions’ decision to recuse himself was a mistake.
That has only fueled Trump’s obsession with the probe, which has dogged his White House since Inauguration Day. Despite his protests to the contrary, Trump continues to watch and obsess over cable news coverage and he frequently interrupts conversations about other topics to complain bitterly about the probe or, on occasion, predict that it’ll soon be behind him.
Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey contributed reporting.