(National Sentinel) Executive Branch: President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday was unusually critical of one of his earliest supporters, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the ongoing ‘Russia’ investigations, calling the decision “very unfair to the president” and claiming he would have picked someone else for the job had he known of Sessions’ intention to recuse beforehand.
In an interview with The New York Times, the audio of which was posted online, Trump made it clear without saying as much that the ongoing Russia investigations — which appear to have no end, despite the Justice Department having probed for more than a year — remain a sore spot.
“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” he said. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”
He also hit Sessions over his Senate confirmation testimony, in which he failed to disclose a pair of meetings with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey I. Kislyak; he was still a sitting U.S. senator at the time, but he was becoming more closely aligned with the Trump campaign.
“Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers,” the president said. “He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”
A Sessions spokesman declined to comment.
Trump also criticized former FBI Director James Comey, as the Times noted:
Mr. Trump recalled that a little more than two weeks before his inauguration, Mr. Comey and other intelligence officials briefed him at Trump Tower on Russian meddling. Mr. Comey afterward pulled Mr. Trump aside and told him about a dossier that had been assembled by a former British spy filled with salacious allegations against the incoming president, including supposed sexual escapades in Moscow. The F.B.I. has not corroborated the most sensational assertions in the dossier.
In the interview, Mr. Trump said he believed Mr. Comey told him about the dossier to implicitly make clear he had something to hold over the president. “In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there,” Mr. Trump said. As leverage? “Yeah, I think so,” Mr. Trump said. “In retrospect.”
The president dismissed the assertions in the dossier: “When he brought it to me, I said this is really made-up junk. I didn’t think about any of it. I just thought about, man, this is such a phony deal.”
And he had words for special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed by Trump’s Justice Dept. to look into “Russia” claims after Sessions’ recusal, noting that he interviewed Mueller as a replacement for Comey.
“He was up here and he wanted the job,” said the president. After he was named special counsel, “I said, ‘What the hell is this all about?’ Talk about conflicts. But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”
— Trump was critical of Asst. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a former prosecutor from Baltimore who appointed Mueller special counsel. After Sessions’ recusal, Trump said he was disturbed to learn where Rosenstein came from. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” he said.
— As for Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Trump said he also had conflicts, noting that his wife, Jill, “received nearly $500,000 in 2015 during a losing campaign for the Virginia Senate from a political action committee affiliated with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is close friends with Hillary and Bill Clinton,” the Times reported.
— Regarding Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer purportedly tied to the Kremlin (which turned out not to be true), the president said even if he had known about it, nothing useful would have come from it. “There wasn’t much I could say about Hillary Clinton that was worse than what I was already saying,” he said. “Unless somebody said that she shot somebody in the back, there wasn’t much I could add to my repertoire.”
Update [20 July 2:13 p.m. CST]: Sessions says he has no plans to step down from his post, for now.
“I’m completely confident that we can continue to run the office in an effective way,” Sessions told reporters at the Justice Department.He said serving as attorney general was an honor and more than he would ever
He said serving as attorney general was an honor and more than he would ever imagined for himself.
“We love this job. We love this department. And I plan to continue to do so as long as is appropriate,” the attorney general said.