President Donald Trump lashed out anew at Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an interview broadcast Thursday, saying he had failed to take control of the Justice Department and was given his job only because of his loyalty during the 2016 campaign.
In an interview on “Fox & Friends” on Fox News, Trump lambasted Sessions for failing to take the reins in a department that the president characterized as dominated by Democrats and unwilling to prosecute Democratic corruption.
“I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department,” Trump said during the interview, which was taped Wednesday at the White House. “It’s sort of an incredible thing.”
Trump also renewed his criticism of Sessions for recusing himself from the department’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election that is now being led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn’t have done, or he should have told me,” Trump said. “He took my job, and then he said, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.’ I said, ‘What kind of man is this?’ ”
Sessions, a former Republican senator from Alabama, was among the earliest and most high-profile supporters of Trump during a GOP primary campaign in which the mogul was shunned by most elected officials in Washington.
“And by the way, he was on the campaign,” Trump said on Fox. “You know, the only reason I gave him the job is because I felt loyalty. He was an original supporter.”
During the interview, Trump declined to say whether he plans to fire Sessions or Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who is overseeing Mueller’s probe, after the November midterm elections.
Mueller’s office has been investigating Trump’s efforts to pressure Sessions to quit or un-recuse himself as part of its examination of whether the president obstructed justice. Trump’s latest comments could be viewed as part of that effort – though he has made similar remarks before.
Conservative Republicans in Congress have been waging a long-running battle to get the Justice Department to turn over documents on the Russia investigation and probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server while secretary of state.
The lawmakers have even taken steps to impeach Rosenstein for what they say is his refusal to cooperate.
During the Fox interview, Trump renewed the possibility that he would insert himself into the fight over the documents.
“At the right time, I think I’m going to have to do the documents,” he said. “I didn’t want to, but I think I’m going to have to. There’s such corruption. . . . It’s from before I got here.”
The White House has previously involved itself in the dispute by brokering a meeting between lawmakers and Justice officials, but Trump has not yet ordered the declassification or handover of documents that Justice says should be off limits.
The department has made tens of thousands of documents available to lawmakers, though satisfying one request typically has led to new requests.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · John Wagner, Matt Zapotosky