Donald Trump says: ‘I do not have an attorney general’
US president claims he is ‘so sad’ about Jeff Sessions’s performance in new interview
US president Donald Trump talks with a driver after handing out food during a tour of Hurricane Florence recovery efforts in New Bern, North Carolina, US. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Mr Trump told reporters he is “so sad over Jeff Sessions”, who he has repeatedly denounced for recusing himself from the investigation into the Trump presidential campaign’s links with Russia.
“He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it,” Mr Trump said in an Oval Office interview released on Wednesday.
“And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers. Answers that should have been easily answered.”
The president softened his stance slightly when talking to reporters on the White House lawn hours after the interview’s publication, saying: “I’m disappointed in the attorney general for numerous reasons, but we have an attorney general.”
Mr Trump has repeatedly asserted that Mr Sessions, a former US senator from Alabama, did not need to step away from the Russia inquiry, a move the president believes in part led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is now investigating contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians.
Mr Trump suggested that Mr Sessions’s rocky Senate confirmation hearings may have impacted his performance as attorney general.
“He gets in and, probably because of the experience that he had going through the nominating when somebody asked him the first question about Hillary Clinton or something, he said, ‘I recuse myself, I recuse myself’,” Mr Trump said.
US department of justice guidelines recommended the attorney general step away because of his own contacts with foreign government officials during his time with the 2016 Trump campaign. Mr Sessions told Congress that his decision was not due to any wrongdoing.
Mr Trump also broadened his attacks on the attorney general beyond the recusal, saying he is unhappy with Mr Sessions’s performance on several issues.
“I’m not happy at the border. I’m not happy with numerous things, not just this,” Mr Trump said in the interview.
Mr Trump has repeatedly complained publicly and privately about Mr Sessions, pushing him to curtail the Mueller inquiry, urging him to investigate Ms Clinton and suggesting he should drop investigations into Republican congressmen until after the November midterm elections.
Mr Trump has repeatedly considered firing Mr Sessions, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, only to be opposed by aides who think a dismissal would upend the Russia investigation, conservatives who applaud Mr Sessions’s hardline stances at the department of justice and Republican senators who have said they would not confirm a replacement.
Mr Sessions recently punched back against Mr Trump, saying he and his department “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations”.
And Mr Sessions has made clear to associates that he has no intention of leaving his job voluntarily despite Mr Trump’s constant criticism.
With regards to Mr Sessions’s future, Mr Trump said in the interview that “we’ll see what happens”.
“We’ll see how it goes with Jeff,” Mr Trump continued. “I’m very disappointed in Jeff. Very disappointed.” – Associated Press