Trump has said he is upset that Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the election, a move which helped lead to the appointment of a special counsel. On Tuesday morning, he also criticized Sessions for not launching investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In a statement, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham called the tweet “highly inappropriate” and defended Sessions, who previously served with him in the U.S. Senate.
“On occasion, I’ve vigorously disagreed with Jeff but I’ve never once doubted his integrity or sense of fair play,” Graham said. “President Trump’s tweet today suggesting Attorney General Sessions pursue prosecution of a former political rival is highly inappropriate.”
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis also defended Sessions’ integrity.
“While some may argue that he should not have recused himself from the Russia investigation, Attorney General Sessions demonstrated good judgement by doing so and removed all appearances of a potential conflict,” Tillis said in a statement. “The Attorney General’s recusal was ultimately made in the best interests of the Department of Justice and the country.”
Also supporting Sessions was Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who tweeted that Trump’s behavior was “beneath” that of “any held office.”
“Mr. President, maybe just try a meeting?” Kinzinger tweeted, quoting Trump’s tweet. “This is beneath the office — of any held office — from city councilman to POTUS.”
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman also lent his support to Sessions.
“Jeff Sessions is a friend, former colleague, and an honorable person,” Portman said in a statement. “He is a man of deep conviction and principle who believes in the rule of law. We may not agree on every policy issue, but I believe he always has the best interests of our country at heart.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, meantime, told reporters on Tuesday that Trump has the “prerogative” to fire Sessions.
“If he has any concerns or questions or problems with the Attorney General, I’m sure he’ll bring it up with him himself,” Ryan said.