Updated at 1:50 p.m. EST | Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended himself against President Donald Trump’s attacks, saying he’ll continue to “discharge my duties with integrity and honor.”
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on his attorney general Wednesday, describing as “disgraceful” his handling of Republican complaints that the FBI abused its surveillance power during the early stages of the Russia probe.
Jeff Sessions said Tuesday that the Justice Department’s inspector general will evaluate whether prosecutors and agents wrongly obtained a warrant to monitor the communications of a Trump associate. This is in response to pressure from congressional Republicans who, like Trump, have been fuming about what they believe to be bias within the FBI.
But to Trump, who has spent the past year berating his attorney general and pressuring him to investigate political rivals, that step apparently did not go far enough.
Trump wrote on Twitter: “Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”
Sessions asked the watchdog office to investigate whether agents abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but it has not said publicly that it will.
The office has been working on a separate review of the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, but contrary to Trump’s tweet, that report is not late and is expected to be released around March or April. And while inspector general Michael Horowitz was appointed to the position by former President Barack Obama, he and his office issued multiple reports critical of the Justice Department in the prior administration.
It was the latest of Trump’s attacks on Sessions, who continues to faithfully execute Trump’s agenda. A day earlier, for example, Sessions said his Justice Department was working toward banning rapid-fire bump stock devices at Trump’s urging, even though the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had previously said it was powerless to do so without action from Congress.
Sessions has been largely silent in the face of Trump’s extraordinary insults, which critics say has strained department morale and made Sessions seem eager to appease his boss at risk of dangerously politicizing the Justice Department. A spokeswoman on Wednesday declined to comment.
The two bonded early in Trump’s campaign over their shared priorities of fighting urban crime and illegal immigration.
But their relationship was strained by Sessions’ decision to step aside from the Russia probe after facing questions about his own contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the campaign. Trump blames that move for the eventual appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the sprawling investigation.
Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.