Political News

'Boxed in' Trump felt no choice but to keep Sessions

Posted June 7

President Donald Trump remains livid with Jeff Sessions but understands that accepting the attorney general's resignation would ignite yet another firestorm around his beleaguered administration, a person close to him said Wednesday.

Trump is keenly aware of the chain of consequences that unfolded after his firing of FBI Director James Comey in May, that have consumed his White House ever since, the person said on Wednesday.

Sessions and the President have had a series of heated exchanges in recent weeks, prompted by the attorney general's decision to recuse himself from the probe into Russia interference in the election and alleged collusion by Trump aides, a source close to Sessions told CNN on Tuesday.

At one point, Sessions made clear he would be willing to resign if Trump no longer wanted him.

The source close to the President said that Trump understands that dismissing Sessions would set off another political firestorm. It would also leave Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed a special counsel to head the Russia probe, in charge of the Justice Department until a replacement is found.

Trump is feeling assailed by the crises that are raging around his White House that have proliferated since his firing of Comey -- and that is one reason he is expressing so much frustration about the way things are going, the source said.

Trump's state of mind has been revealed in recent days in a series of furious tweets about the Russia investigation, the media, his demands for the courts to stop blocking his travel ban and the London terror attack.

The White House has still not said publicly whether or not the President retains confidence in his attorney general. An official said that the strategy was rooted in a desire to avoid a repeat of what happened when his political adviser Kellyanne Conway said Trump had confidence in national security adviser Michael Flynn only to find out hours later that Flynn had been pushed out.

Conway dodged a question about whether the President had confidence in Sessions at an event hosted by the online news service Axios on Wednesday.

"He has confidence in the people who work for him. He has confidence in his Cabinet. He has confidence in his staff. And, I don't want to comment too much on that news or any news of the day," Conway said.

Trump ignored questions about Sessions shouted by reporters as he walked across the south lawn of the White House on Wednesday to board his Marine One helicopter.

Sessions remains at the Justice Department, where a spokeswoman told CNN that he is not stepping down.

Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe in March, shortly after The Washington Post reported on undisclosed meetings between him and the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.

The frustration between Trump and Sessions has gone both ways, with Justice Department officials upset that the President's tweets and comments caused problems for Sessions and Rosenstein in the wake of the Comey firing.

Sessions was Trump's first supporter in the Senate and was an enthusiastic backer throughout the campaign -- standing with Trump through multiple controversies. And Sessions' own team has become a part of Trump's inner circle: former Sessions chief of staff Rick Dearborn is now Trump's deputy chief of staff, and former Sessions spokesman Stephen Miller has evolved into a highly influential figure as Trump's policy director and speechwriter.

After the election, Sessions was rewarded with one of the most prominent positions in Trump's new administration, atop the Justice Department.


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