President Donald Trump said Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s job is safe at least until the midterm elections in November.
But the president also blasted Sessions for failing to rein in what he called an “illegal investigation” by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into whether Trump and his campaign aides colluded with Russians in the 2016 election.
“I just would love to have him do a great job,” Trump said Thursday in an Oval Office interview with Bloomberg News. Asked if he’d keep Sessions beyond November, he declined to comment. “I’d love to have him look at the other side,” he said, reiterating calls for Sessions’s Justice Department to investigate Democrat Hillary Clinton and the origins of the Russia probe.
“I do question what is Jeff doing,” Trump said.
Trump has repeatedly attacked Sessions in private and in public for recusing himself in March 2017 from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to conduct what’s become a wide-ranging probe, including whether people around Trump conspired with the Russians and whether the president sought to obstruct justice.
Asked whether he would comply with a subpoena from Mueller to answer questions, Trump said in the interview that “I’ll see what happens.”
“I view it differently. I view it as an illegal investigation” because “great scholars” have said that “there never should have been a special counsel,” the president said.
Trump has ridiculed Sessions, a former Republican senator and an early supporter of his presidential candidacy, as “weak” for failing to aggressively pursue Republican allegations of anti-Trump bias in the Justice Department and FBI. Trump has tried to no avail to pressure Sessions to quit, which would open the way to appointing a successor who could oust Mueller or rein in his inquiry.
Trump reiterated his criticism of the Justice Department and FBI Thursday evening at a rally in Evansville, Indiana. The president said he’ll get involved at some point if the law enforcement agencies don’t “straighten out.”
In an interview last week with Fox News, Trump said Sessions’s inability to “control” his department was “a regrettable thing,” adding that the Justice Department seems “to go after a lot of Republicans.”
Sessions responded then in a defiant statement, saying, “While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
Trump’s comments Thursday were in keeping with the predictions of some key Republicans in Congress, who are now saying they expect the president to oust Sessions after the elections in November despite warning him in the past that the Senate wouldn’t muster the votes to confirm a successor.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Tuesday that the relationship between Trump and Sessions is “beyond repair” and that the issues are “deeper” than the attorney general’s recusal.
“He is not the only man in the country that can be attorney general. He is a fine man. I’m not asking for him to be fired. But the relationship is not working,” Graham said on NBC’s “Today.” “Is there somebody who is highly qualified that has the confidence of the president, and will also understand their job is to protect Mueller? Yes, I think we can find that person after the election if that is what the president wants.”