Political News

Trump Admits ‘We Have an Attorney General,’ but Says He’s Disappointed in Him

Posted September 19, 2018 1:23 p.m. EDT
Updated September 19, 2018 1:24 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has escalated his drawn-out war with Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the president’s view that Sessions failed to protect him from the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether any Trump associates conspired with it.

In his latest attack, Trump said, “I don’t have an attorney general,” an extraordinary statement even for a president who has called his attorney general weak and disloyal. “It’s very said,” he continued in an interview Tuesday with The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

On Wednesday morning, Trump reversed himself. “We have an attorney general,” he said, in response to reporters’ questions as he departed the White House to visit storm-struck North Carolina. “I’m disappointed in the attorney general for many reasons.”

Asked whether he planned to fire Sessions, the president added, “We are looking at lots of different things.”

Trump has long publicly shamed the attorney general for recusing himself in March 2017 from overseeing the Russia investigation — a sprawling inquiry that has cast a shadow over Trump’s 20 months in office. Firing Sessions would be a way to change who has oversight of the investigation.

In his interview with The Hill, Trump said his disappointment in . Sessions extended beyond the Russia investigation to immigration, an issue on which both men share a hard-line view.

“I’m not happy at the border, I’m not happy with numerous things, not just this,” Trump said.

Trump’s most recent attack on Sessions came days after he ordered the declassification of records related to the Russia investigation, an inquiry he has called corrupt, rigged and a witch hunt.

Since Sessions stepped aside, that inquiry has been overseen by the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who appointed a special counsel, Robert Mueller, to lead it. Trump has said repeatedly that he expected Sessions to protect him from the investigation, which has resulted in convictions and guilty pleas from the president’s former aides.

Through an extended barrage of humiliating public statements and jabs, Trump has made clear that Sessions’ job is in peril and it is only a matter of when. At one point, Sessions, one of the president’s earliest prominent supporters, drafted a resignation letter.

Sessions recused himself from all campaign-related inquiries to avoid a conflict of interest because of his role on the Trump campaign. Rosenstein has said he would not fire the special counsel.

The president recently told Bloomberg News that he would not fire Sessions before the midterm elections in November. And should Trump decide to dismiss him, it is unlikely that the Senate would be able to confirm a replacement before then.

Trump’s attacks on the typically independent justice system have increased as the Mueller investigation has implicated people tied to the president, who has long lamented that he was not to interfere in federal investigations. Last year, Trump told a conservative radio host that he was frustrated by this restraint. “I am not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing,” Trump said.

In August, Sessions issued an unusual public statement in response to one of the president’s insults and said he would not allow politics to interfere with investigations while he is attorney general.

The president’s latest judgment about Sessions underscores his expectation that his attorney general serves as his personal attorney.

“The attorney general is a public servant,” David Kris, a founder of Culper Partners and a former assistant attorney general for national security, said in an with CNN on Wednesday. “The attorney general is not the president’s personal lawyer, and the president would do well to remember that.”

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Trump already has personal lawyers — nearly a dozen — looking out for his personal and business interests in two federal investigations in Washington and New York.

In his interview with The Hill, Trump also said that he regretted not firing his first FBI director, James B. Comey, earlier. Comey was appointed by former President Barack Obama and was less than five years into a 10-year term when Trump abruptly fired him in May 2017.

“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries,” Trump told The Hill.

The president’s reasons for firing Comey are part of a special counsel inquiry into whether the president intended to obstruct justice by removing the FBI director, who was leading the investigation into some of Trump’s closest aides.