Sav­aged by Trump, Ses­sions says he’s stay­ing on

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD/OBITUARIES - BY ERIC TUCKER AND SADIE GURMAN

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, pub­licly skew­ered by his boss for step­ping clear of the Rus­sia-Trump in­ves­ti­ga­tions, de­clared Thurs­day he still loves his job and plans to stay on. Yet Don­ald Trump’s air­ing of his long-sim­mer­ing frus­tra­tions with Ses­sions raised sig­nif­i­cant new ques­tions about the fu­ture of the nation’s top pros­e­cu­tor.

The White House was quick to in­sist that the pres­i­dent “has con­fi­dence” in Ses­sions. How­ever, the episode un­der­scored how the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s crime-fight­ing agenda is be­ing over­shad­owed by his frac­tured re­la­tion­ship with Trump and the con­tin­u­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sian ties to the Repub­li­can can­di­date’s pres­i­den­tial campaign.

The chal­lenges for Ses­sions were laid bare Thurs­day when the at­tor­ney gen­eral, at a Jus­tice De­part­ment news con­fer­ence to an­nounce the take­down of a mam­moth in­ter­net drug mar­ket­place, faced zero ques­tions about that case and was in­stead grilled on his re­ac­tion to be­ing ex­co­ri­ated by Trump in a New York Times in­ter­view a day ear­lier. The news con­fer­ence on the drug case was quickly ended once it was clear re­porters would only ask about the in­ter­view.

Ses­sions did not di­rectly ad­dress his re­la­tion­ship to Trump ex­cept to say he was still car­ry­ing out the agenda of the pres­i­dent.

“I have the hon­our of serv­ing as at­tor­ney gen­eral. It’s some­thing that goes be­yond any thought I would have ever had for my­self,” Ses­sions said. “We love this job, we love this de­part­ment and I plan to con­tinue to do so as long as that is ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Asked how he could ef­fec­tively serve if he didn’t have Trump’s con­fi­dence, he re­sponded, “We’re serv­ing right now. The work we’re do­ing to­day is the kind of work we in­tend to con­tinue.”

Asked at the White House about Trump’s feel­ings on Ses­sions, spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said, “Clearly, he has con­fi­dence in him or he would not be the at­tor­ney gen­eral.”

It all fol­lowed Trump’s state­ments to the Times that he never would have tapped the for­mer Alabama se­na­tor for the job had he known a re­cusal was com­ing. Ses­sions took him­self off the Jus­tice De­part­ment-led case in March fol­low­ing rev­e­la­tions he’d failed to dis­close his own meet­ings with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to the U.S. That placed the in­ves­ti­ga­tion with his deputy, Rod Rosen­stein, who in May ap­pointed for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller to serve as spe­cial coun­sel.

Sev­eral people close to Trump — in­clud­ing his el­dest son, Don­ald Trump Jr, who has also been en­snared in the Rus­sia probe — have told the pres­i­dent that they, too, be­lieve Ses­sions’ de­ci­sion to re­cuse him­self was a mis­take, ac­cord­ing to three White House and out­side ad­vis­ers who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions.

In the same Wed­nes­day in­ter­view, Trump lashed out at Mueller, Rosen­stein, James Comey, the FBI di­rec­tor Trump fired, and act­ing FBI Di­rec­tor An­drew McCabe, who re­placed Comey.

“Jeff Ses­sions takes the job, gets into the job, re­cuses him­self, which frankly I think is very un­fair to the pres­i­dent,” Trump told the news­pa­per. “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.”

AP PHOTO

U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions at­tends a news con­fer­ence to an­nounce an in­ter­na­tional cy­ber­crime en­force­ment ac­tion in Washington Thurs­day.

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