Pres­i­dent’s lash­ing of Ses­sions an­other blow to at­tor­ney gen­eral

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Zeke Miller and Sadie Gur­man

he said. “I’d like to let it run it­self. But hon­estly, they should be look­ing at Democrats . ... They should be look­ing at a lot of things, and a lot of peo­ple are dis­ap­pointed with the Jus­tice De­part­ment, in­clud­ing me.”

Two White House of­fi­cials quickly cau­tioned against read­ing too much into Trump’s com­ments, re­it­er­at­ing that he has no plans to fire Ses­sions. And al­though the White House main­tains that Trump’s tweets are “of­fi­cial record,” it says Trump has not or­dered Ses­sions or the FBI to do any­thing re­lated to Democrats.

Trump is­sued a flurry of tweets over a 3½-hour span Friday urg­ing the Jus­tice De­part­ment to in­ves­ti­gate Hil­lary Clin­ton and the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee over a joint fundrais­ing agree­ment they signed in Au­gust 2015.

Trump’s ac­cu­sa­tions fol­low pub­li­ca­tion by Politico of an ex­cerpt from for­mer act­ing DNC Chair Donna Brazile’s up­com­ing book. Brazile al­leges she found “proof ” that the 2016 Demo­cratic pri­mary was rigged in Clin­ton’s fa­vor.

“Ev­ery­body is ask­ing why the Jus­tice De­part­ment (and FBI) isn’t look­ing into all of the dis­hon­esty go­ing on with Crooked Hil­lary & the Dems ...” Trump tweeted.

The aides said the tweets were a me­dia savvy way to de­flect at­ten­tion from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller into Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion. This week, for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort and his busi­ness as­so­ciate Rick Gates, who also had a role in the cam­paign, were in­dicted on 12 counts, and for­mer Trump cam­paign ad­viser Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los pleaded guilty to ly­ing about his deal­ings with Rus­sians who were of­fer­ing “dirt” on Clin­ton.

Ses­sions has be­come a scape­goat for Trump’s anger, al­low­ing the pres­i­dent to avoid some of the po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences of di­rectly at­tack­ing the spe­cial coun­sel.

But the pres­i­dent’s lash­ing was an­other blow to the at­tor­ney gen­eral, and came amid calls for him to re­turn to Congress to ex­plain why he said ear­lier this year he was un­aware of in­for­ma­tion ex­changes be­tween Trump’s cam­paign and in­ter­me­di­aries for the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.

Pa­padopou­los ad­mit­ted he told Ses­sions at a March 2016 meet­ing he had made con­tacts with Rus­sians who said they could set up a meet­ing be­tween Trump and Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. Ses­sions quickly dis­missed the idea and said he’d pre­fer no one ever speak about it, ac­cord­ing to one per­son who was there, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to share the pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion.

Demo­cratic mem­bers of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee are now ask­ing Ses­sions to fol­low up.

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