Trump slams Sessions as not tough enough
US President Donald Trump is criticising his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as not being tough enough, adding to speculation his longtime supporter might be on the way out.
“I want the attorney general to be much tougher,” Trump said at a news conference on Tuesday. “I want the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking like rarely have they ever leaked before, at a very important level. These are intelligence agencies we cannot have that happen.”
Asked about Sessions’ future, Trump said: “Time will tell. Time will tell.”
The comments are the latest in a very public dressing down of his attorney general.
Earlier Trump tweeted Sessions had “taken a VERY weak position” on investigating his former opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, over her use of a private email server.
While he also told Wall Street Journal he was “disappointed” in his attorney general, a downplayed the importance of Sessions’ early endorsement of him.
“It’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement,” he told the paper.
On Monday he described Sessions as “beleaguered”.
Trump is angry that Sessions recused himself from the federal investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s election campaign team and Russia.
The Kremlin says it did not interfere in the election, and Trump has denied any collusion.
Sessions’ recusal means he has no oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose wide-ranging investigation has focused on Trump aides and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Two people close to Sessions said the attorney general, who was the first Republican senator to back Trump’s presidential campaign, has been deeply offended by the public berating from his boss, but his resolve to stay is strong.
The public attacks by a president on a member of his own cabinet and one-time close political ally have stunned many in Washington.
“In an administration where a lot of unexpected things have happened, this may be the most unexpected. This has risen to a level that we have never seen before,” said Douglas Heye, a former top aide to former Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Republican MPs sprang to Sessions’ defence on Tuesday, and the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, accused Trump of trying to “bully his own attorney general out of office”.
Trump’s public criticism of Sessions began in earnest in an interview with the New York Times last week in which he said that he would not have hired him had he known he would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
He followed that with the critical tweets, and close aides, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and newly installed White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci have gone on television to reinforce Trump’s frustration with Sessions.