US President Donald Trump has escalated his denouncement of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying: “I don’t have an attorney general.”
Trump, in a Hill.TV interview released on Wednesday, said that he was “so sad over Jeff Sessions,” whom he has repeatedly criticized for recusing himself from an investigation into contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians.
“He was the first senator that endorsed me and he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it,” Trump said in the Oval office interview.
“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,” Trump said.
However, the president told reporters on the White House lawn hours after the interview’s publication that he was “disappointed in the attorney general for numerous reasons, but we have an attorney general.”
Trump has repeatedly asserted that Sessions did not need to step away from the Russia probe, a move the president believes in part led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump suggested that Sessions’ Senate confirmation hearings might have affected 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 [former US secretary of state] Hillary [Rodham] Clinton or something he said: ‘I recuse myself, I recuse myself,’” 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.
Sessions told Congress that his decision was not due to any wrongdoing.
Trump also broadened his attacks beyond the recusal, saying he was unhappy with Sessions’ performance on several issues.
“I’m not happy at the border. I’m not happy with numerous things, not just this,” Trump said in the interview.
Trump has repeatedly complained publicly and privately about Sessions, saying he should curtail the Mueller probe and investigate Clinton.
He also said that he does not feel as though Sessions supports him like former attorneys general Eric Holder and Bobby Kennedy backed then-US presidents Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy respectively.
Trump has repeatedly considered firing 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 Sessions’ stances at the department and Republican senators who have said they would not confirm a replacement.
However, there have been cracks in that blockade.
US Senator Lindsey Graham, who once backed Sessions, recently said that the president was “entitled to having an attorney general he has faith in,” while other Trump allies have suggested that a move could be made after the US midterm elections in November.
Sessions has said that he and his department “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
He has made clear to associates that he has no intention of leaving his job voluntarily.
Trump said in the interview that “we’ll see what happens” with Sessions’ future.
“We’ll see how it goes with Jeff,” Trump said. “I’m very disappointed in Jeff. Very disappointed.”
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