Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a striking statement Thursday hours after President Trump questioned his loyalty in a “Fox & Friends” interview while disparaging the Justice Department that Sessions oversees.
“I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in,” Sessions said. “Which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda — one that protects the safety and security and rights of the American people, reduces violent crime, enforces our immigration laws, promotes economic growth, and advances religious liberty.
“While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” Sessions continued. “I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action. However, no nation has a more talented, more dedicated group of law enforcement investigators and prosecutors than the United States.”
He added: “I am proud to serve with them and proud of the work we have done in successfully advancing the rule of law.”
In an interview that aired on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning, Trump renewed his criticism of Sessions, who recused himself from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia shortly after he was appointed attorney general.
“I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department,” Trump said. “Jeff Sessions never took control of the Justice Department, and it’s a sort of an incredible thing.”
“Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn’t have done. Or he should have told me,” Trump continued. “Even my enemies say that Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself, and then you wouldn’t have put him in. He took the job and then he said, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.’ I said, ‘What kind of a man is this?’”
Trump said the “only reason” he gave Sessions the nation’s top law enforcement officer post was because he worked on the president’s campaign and was the first sitting senator to endorse him.
“You know the only reason I gave him the job: because I felt loyalty,” Trump said. “He was an original supporter.”
Trump said he wants to stay “uninvolved” with Mueller’s probe but may act because of what he sees as bias at the Justice Department against him.
“Everybody sees what going on in the Justice Department,” Trump said. “I always put ‘Justice’ now with quotes. It’s a very, very sad day.”
On Capitol Hill earlier Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he believes Trump may fire Sessions after the midterm elections.
“The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that’s qualified for the job,” Graham told reporters. “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.”
“Replacing him before the election, to me, before would be a nonstarter,” Graham added. “But the idea of having a new attorney general in the first term of President Trump’s administration, I think, is very likely.”
For months, Trump has repeatedly berated Sessions in interviews and tweets, blaming the attorney general for not sheltering him from Mueller. Earlier this month, Trump called on Sessions to shut down the Russia probe.
“This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further,” Trump tweeted.
Sessions has rarely responded to Trump’s public criticism.
But in February — after Trump lashed Sessions for asking the inspector general to investigate allegations of misconduct by former Obama administration officials in the handling of surveillance of former Trump adviser Carter Page during the 2016 campaign — the attorney general responded in another carefully worded statement.
“We have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this Department will be fully and fairly acted upon as necessary,” Sessions said. “As long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.”
On Thursday afternoon, Sessions arrived at the White House for a previously scheduled meeting with Trump to discuss prison reform.
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