AG Sessions punches back against president
Attorney General Jeff Sessions punched back hard at President Donald Trump’s latest sneering criticism Thursday as their long-running rift exploded into a public smackdown. Trump, concerned by the legal downfall of two former advisers, accused Sessions of failing to take control of the Justice Department, leading Sessions to declare that he and his department “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
Trump’s anger with Sessions boiled over in an interview with Fox News in which the president also expressed frustration with the plea agreement his onetime legal “fixer” Michael Cohen cut with prosecutors, including implicating Trump in a crime that Cohen admitted. Trump said it might be better if “flipping” – cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for more favorable treatment – were illegal because people cooperating with the government “just make up lies” to get favorable treatment.
In the wide-ranging interview, Trump also defended himself against talk of impeachment – “the market would crash ... everybody would be very poor” – tried to distance himself from Cohen – “I would see him sometimes” – and said anew that he hadn’t known in advance about Cohen’s hush money payments to silence women alleging sexual relationships with the celebrity businessman.
Trump’s latest shots against law enforcement came as he appeared increasingly vulnerable to long-running investigations after this week’s one-two punch of Cohen’s plea deal and the conviction of Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort.
Trump has spent more than a year publicly and privately venting over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the federal Russia-collusion investigation because he’d worked on Trump’s campaign. Trump, who blames that decision for the eventual appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, told “Fox and Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt that Sessions “never took control of the Justice Department and it’s a sort of an incredible thing.”
Sessions has made clear to associates that he has no intention of leaving his job voluntarily despite Trump’s constant criticism. But his tone in his statement on Thursday made clear he is tired of the president’s attacks.
“I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda.” Then he declared, that while he’s attorney general the actions of the department “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action.”