Speculation builds about future of US attorney general

Jeff Sessions defied Republicans by deciding not to appoint a second special counsel to investigate the FBI

US attorney general Jeff Sessions said the allegations did not warrant the appointment of a special counsel. Photograph: AFP / Getty Images

US attorney general Jeff Sessions said the allegations did not warrant the appointment of a special counsel. Photograph: AFP / Getty Images

 

US president Donald Trump retreated to his Florida estate for the Easter weekend amid speculation about the future of attorney general Jeff Sessions, following his decision not to appoint a second special counsel to investigate the FBI.

Mr Sessions defied much of the Republican party by announcing he would not be appointing a special counsel to examine allegations of malpractice at the FBI, a key priority of many Republicans.

Allegations of anti-Trump bias at the agency, and questions about its role in investigating Hillary Clinton, have been a constant theme on much right-wing pro-Trump media since Republicans released a memo criticising the agency’s surveillance of Trump aide Carter Page.

But Mr Sessions, in a letter to three congressional Republicans, said the allegations did not warrant the appointment of a special counsel, noting that the matter was already being investigated.

Mr Trump has repeatedly tweeted his dissatisfaction with the FBI and its relationship with Hillary Clinton, arguing that its reputation is “in tatters” and accusing the agency of holding an anti-Trump agenda.

The US president remained silent on Twitter on Friday morning as he played golf at his club in West Palm Beach in Florida.

Privatisation

The relentless churn of staff at the White House has continued this week, with Mr Trump firing secretary for veteran affairs David Shulkin, and replacing him with White House physician Ronny Jackson. The new appointment has prompted expectation of a policy shift at the department, after Mr Shulkin said he was dismissed because of his opposition to privatising healthcare for veterans.

While deputy press secretary Lyndsey Walters insisted that the appointment should not be taken as a move to embrace privatisation, Mr Trump hinted that he was in favour of such an approach, telling a rally in Ohio that veterans should “have a choice” when it comes to healthcare.

Mr Shulkin was not the only senior figure to depart this week. Communications director Hope Hicks, a long-standing aide and confidante to Mr Trump, spent her last day at the White House on Thursday. She resigned earlier this month after three years working for the president. There has been speculation that the White House may leave the role vacant for some time, before appointing a successor to Ms Hicks.