WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump launched an array of attacks Wednesday on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, disparaging Sessions' performance as the country's top law enforcement official.
"I'm disappointed in the attorney general for many reasons," Trump told reporters at the White House. His remark came hours after a television interview with HillTV aired in which Trump declared, "I don't have an attorney general. It's very sad."
Trump for more than a year has railed against Sessions, the first senator to declare his support for then-candidate Trump in 2016. Trump continues to vent his anger at Sessions for removing himself from oversight of the long-running investigation of Russia links to Trump's campaign and whether, as president, Trump obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.
Sessions has said that he was required by Justice Department dictates to recuse himself from overseeing the probe because he staunchly backed Trump's campaign and also had two contacts in 2016, when he was a senator from Alabama, with Russia's then-ambassador to Washington. Oversight of the Russia probe then fell to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who in turn, over Trump's objections, appointed Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as special counsel to head the investigation.
Mueller has now won several convictions of top Trump aides and continues to investigate Trump's campaign and his actions as president.
In the television interview, Trump attacked Sessions on a range of issues. The Justice Department, which Sessions heads, declined to comment. But Sessions, after another Trump attack on him last month, pushed back, saying, "While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."
‘We’ll see how it goes’
Even though Sessions has proved to be a hardline foe of illegal immigration into the U.S., Trump said, “I’m not happy at the border, I’m not happy with numerous things, not just" Sessions's removal of himself from oversight of the Russia investigation.
Trump suggested he did not foresee what would happen when he named Sessions as attorney general.
“I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it,” he said.
“And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly," Trump recalled. "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. And that was a rough time for him.”
Despite his frequent complaints about Sessions, Trump has refrained from firing him, warned by Republican lawmakers that Trump would have great difficulty winning Senate confirmation for any replacement who did not pledge to allow Mueller to complete the Russia probe, an investigation that Trump derides on almost a daily basis.
Some Republican lawmakers have said they might be open to Trump replacing Sessions after the November 6 national congressional elections.
One Republican lawmaker who talks frequently with Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham, said recently, “The president's entitled to having an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that is qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time sooner rather than later where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice. Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn't have the confidence of the president.”
Trump recently said Sessions was safe in his job until after the elections.
In the television interview, he said, “We’ll see what happens. A lot of people have asked me to [fire him]. And I guess I study history, and I say I just want to leave things alone, but it was very unfair what he did.”
“And my worst enemies, I mean, people that, you know, are on the other side of me in a lot of ways, including politically, have said that was a very unfair thing he did,” Trump said.
"We’ll see how it goes with Jeff," Trump concluded. "I’m very disappointed in Jeff. Very disappointed."