Trump voices regret for picking Sessions, while blasting Comey and Mueller

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump sounding off again. This time, as he observes the first half-year mark of his presidency, he's vented some very public criticism of his attorney general and of other top Justice Department officials, past and present.

John Yang begins our coverage.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. Attorney General: Good morning.

JOHN YANG: Attorney General Jeff Sessions made it clear today he's not going anywhere for now.

JEFF SESSIONS: We love this job. We love this department. And I plan to continue to do so, as long as that is appropriate.

JOHN YANG: That came after President Trump's sharp rebuke of Sessions in a New York Times interview for disqualifying himself from the Russia investigation.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: How do you take a job, and then recuse yourself?

If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, thanks, Jeff, but I can't — you know, I'm not going to take you. It's extremely unfair, and that's a mild word, to the president.

JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump also said Sessions gave some bad answers in his Senate confirmation hearing when he failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador.

While the White House said the president still has confidence in Sessions, Mr. Trump's comments mark a public break from one of his earliest supporters. It also suggests that Mr. Trump's anger with Sessions is still fresh more than four months after the attorney general recused himself.

In the 50-minute interview, Mr. Trump leveled a new allegation about why fired FBI Director James Comey told him about the uncorroborated contents of a salacious dossier before Inauguration Day: "In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there."

He was asked, "As leverage?"

"Yes, I think so, in retrospect."

The president also appeared to warn special counsel Robert Mueller to limit his investigation.

QUESTION: Mueller was looking at your finances, your family's finances unrelated to Russia. Is that a red line?

QUESTION: Well, that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I would say yes. I would say yes.

JOHN YANG: Could Mueller's investigation go there?

Greg Farrell is a Bloomberg News investigative reporter.

GREG FARRELL, Bloomberg News: That's what this is all about. They have to look into Trump's own finances and see if there's been any unusual benefit beyond the purchase of apartments, if there's anything unusual about all the business transactions that have taken place over many years between Russian nationals and him.

JOHN YANG: Although the White House said the president doesn't intend to fire Mueller, his comments raised red flags for some Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-Conn.: What we're watching is an obstruction of justice case unfolding in real time right before our eyes, the president of the United States trying to set limits on a legitimate investigation.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, D-Minn.: Mueller has the right to investigate this, and he was given that authority by the Justice Department, and he reports to the Justice Department and not to the president of the United States.

JOHN YANG: Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said he wasn't worried.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, R-Iowa: As I know Mueller or 13 years or how many years he was head of the FBI, he's going to do his job. And that's all that matters.

JOHN YANG: Grassley said Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have not yet responded to his request that they testify next week and that he will subpoena them if necessary.

For the PBS NewsHour, I'm John Yang.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We will explore some of the implications of the president's comments after the news summary.

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