Trump taunts AG again, calls him easy on Clin­ton

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump con­tin­ued his at­tacks on At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions on Tues­day, re­viv­ing his cam­paign call to in­ves­ti­gate Hil­lary Clin­ton’s “crimes” as he crit­i­cized Ses­sions’ in­ac­tion.

At a news conference Tues­day, Trump also said he was “dis­ap­pointed” in Ses­sions for re­cus­ing him­self in the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Trump cam­paign’s pos­si­ble ties with Rus­sia.

“He should not have re­cused him­self al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter he took of­fice, and if he was go­ing to re­cuse him­self, he should have told me prior to tak­ing of­fice, and I would have, quite sim­ply, picked some­body else,” Trump said. “So I think that’s a bad thing, not for the pres­i­dent but for the pres­i­dency.”

Pressed to say whether he in­tends to fire Ses­sions, who served in the Se­nate and was head of the Ju­di­ciary

Com­mit­tee, the pres­i­dent said he wants the at­tor­ney gen­eral to be “much tougher” on leaks from in­tel­li­gence agen­cies. But he de­clined to say whether he wanted Ses­sions to re­sign.

“I told you be­fore, I’m very dis­ap­pointed in the at­tor­ney gen­eral,” he said. “We will see what hap­pens. Time will tell. Time will tell.”

Two Twit­ter posts Tues­day morn­ing were the lat­est in a string of crit­i­cisms that be­gan when Trump told The New York Times in an in­ter­view last week that he never would have ap­pointed Ses­sions if he had known he would re­cuse him­self in the Rus­sia in­quiry.

Af­ter Ses­sions stepped away from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and Trump fired FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey, Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein ap­pointed Robert Mueller as spe­cial coun­sel to in­ves­ti­gate the pres­i­dent’s ac­tions and whether any of his as­so­ciates col­lab­o­rated with Rus­sia in the 2016 elec­tion.

One of Trump’s top ad­vis­ers ac­knowl­edged that the pres­i­dent most likely wanted Ses­sions out of the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice.

The ad­viser, Anthony Scara­mucci, hired last week as White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor, said he did not want to speak for Trump but that, given the level of public tension be­tween the pres­i­dent and his at­tor­ney gen­eral, it’s “prob­a­bly right” that Trump wants him out of that job.

“He’s ob­vi­ously frus­trated,” Scara­mucci said in an in­ter­view with the con­ser­va­tive ra­dio host Hugh He­witt.

On Mon­day, Trump called Ses­sions “be­lea­guered” in a tweet, rais­ing ques­tions about whether Ses­sions would re­sign.

Ses­sions, 70, has so far in­di­cated he has no in­ten­tion of do­ing so, say­ing last week that he would con­tinue to “whole­heart­edly” sup­port Trump’s pri­or­i­ties. “We love this job. We love this de­part­ment. And I plan to con­tinue to do so as long as that is ap­pro­pri­ate,” he said.

Trump was crit­i­cal Tues­day of Ses­sions’ in­ac­tion re­gard­ing Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate com­puter server. “At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions has taken a VERY weak po­si­tion on Hil­lary Clin­ton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & In­tel leak­ers!” Trump tweeted.

The FBI in­ves­ti­gated and closed the email in­quiry with­out charges in 2016.

Scara­mucci told CNN on Mon­day that Ses­sions and the pres­i­dent needed to “sit down, face to face, and have a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and a dis­cus­sion of the fu­ture.”

If Ses­sions were to re­sign or be fired, Trump could ap­point a suc­ces­sor dur­ing the con­gres­sional re­cess who would not face Se­nate in­quiries and could take over, at least tem­po­rar­ily, with­out a con­fir­ma­tion vote. That could al­low the pres­i­dent to as­sert greater con­trol over the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his cam­paign’s con­tacts with Rus­sia.

SUP­PORT FOR SES­SIONS

Trump’s mount­ing public crit­i­cism of Ses­sions has prompted an out­pour­ing of sup­port from Ses­sions’ for­mer col­leagues in the Se­nate, where he served for 20 years be­fore re­sign­ing to be­come at­tor­ney gen­eral, and has left scores of other con­gress­men aghast at Trump’s will­ing­ness to turn on one of his most loyal cam­paign sup­port­ers.

“I don’t think it helps to throw your own peo­ple un­der the bus,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. “If you think you need to make a change, call him in, have the dis­cus­sion, make the change. But I don’t think these sorts of public flog­gings are very help­ful.”

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., mar­veled on the Se­nate floor Tues­day at Trump’s will­ing­ness to crit­i­cize Ses­sions.

“This is the first per­son who stuck his neck out for Don­ald Trump, who was with him through thick and thin,” he said. “And now, even if the pres­i­dent has dis­agree­ments with him — which I think are ill-founded, self-cen­tered and wrong — you don’t ridicule him in public. Some­one who is your close friend? That speaks to char­ac­ter.”

Schumer raised openly what many Repub­li­cans have pri­vately said they fear — that Ses­sions’ dis­missal would be a first step to­ward Mueller’s fir­ing. Ses­sions re­cused him­self from Rus­sia-re­lated mat­ters be­cause of the meet­ings he had taken with Rus­sian Am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak and can­not dis­miss Mueller, but his suc­ces­sor would not be so con­strained.

“Many Amer­i­cans must be won­der­ing if the pres­i­dent is try­ing to pry open the of­fice of at­tor­ney gen­eral to ap­point some­one dur­ing the Au­gust re­cess who will fire spe­cial coun­sel Mueller and shut down the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Schumer said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., de­clined Tues­day to make a de­fin­i­tive state­ment re­gard­ing Ses­sions, telling re­porters, “It’s up to the pres­i­dent to de­cide what his per­son­nel de­ci­sion is and any pos­si­ble fall­out that comes from that.”

And he avoided mak­ing a di­rect state­ment on Mueller’s fu­ture a day af­ter de­fend­ing the spe­cial coun­sel in a Wis­con­sin ra­dio in­ter­view. Asked on WISN-AM about an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that is “be­com­ing an ob­vi­ous witch hunt,” Ryan moved to re­but that Trump-in­spired line of at­tack.

“Re­mem­ber, Bob Mueller is a Repub­li­can who was ap­pointed by a Repub­li­can, who served in a Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tion, and crossed over and stayed on un­til his term ended,” he said. “I don’t think many peo­ple are say­ing Bob Mueller is a per­son who is bi­ased and a par­ti­san. He’s sort of re­ally any­thing but.”

Most GOP law­mak­ers kept their fo­cus Tues­day on Ses­sions. Those stand­ing up for him in­cluded some of Trump’s most loyal sup­port­ers on the po­lit­i­cal right who fear the loss of a trusted ally on im­mi­gra­tion and law-and-or­der is­sues.

“Jeff Ses­sions is far and away the best pos­si­ble per­son to be our at­tor­ney gen­eral in the United States of Amer­ica,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. “There is no one who could re­place him who would fol­low through and fin­ish out the Trump agenda.”

Were Ses­sions to be cashiered, King said, “this would be an am­pu­ta­tion of his own im­mi­gra­tion and rule-of-law agenda that would be a mas­sive dis­ap­point­ment to the con­ser­va­tives of Amer­ica.”

Mean­while, in an­other tweet Tues­day, Trump crit­i­cized the act­ing FBI di­rec­tor, An­drew McCabe, for what Trump de­scribed as his role in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Clin­ton’s com­puter use.

In crit­i­ciz­ing McCabe, Trump re­vived re­ports that McCabe’s wife ac­cepted con­tri­bu­tions from a long­time Clin­ton sup­porter in her un­suc­cess­ful Demo­cratic bid for a Vir­ginia state Se­nate seat.

While Trump spent the fi­nal weeks of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign promis­ing to ap­point a spe­cial prose­cu­tor to look into Clin­ton’s email use, he re­versed course af­ter the elec­tion, in­di­cat­ing in sev­eral venues that he wouldn’t pur­sue the mat­ter.

“I don’t want to hurt them, I don’t want to hurt them,” Trump said of the Clin­tons in Novem­ber on CBS’s 60 Min­utes pro­gram. “They’re good peo­ple.”

Later, Trump tweeted Tues­day that Ukraine tried to “sab­o­tage” his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and help Clin­ton.

Trump ap­peared to be re­fer­ring to the Fox News host Sean Han­nity’s dis­cus­sion of a Politico ar­ti­cle in Jan­uary about Clin­ton’s al­lies co­or­di­nat­ing with Ukrainian of­fi­cials to re­search po­lit­i­cally harm­ful in­for­ma­tion about Trump and his ad­vis­ers.

Trump’s sup­port­ers have sought to use this anec­dote to jus­tify the ac­tions of Trump’s el­dest son, Don­ald Jr. In June 2016, the younger Trump had a meet­ing with a Rus­sian lawyer with ties to the Krem­lin be­cause he was promised po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion on Clin­ton.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have con­cluded that Rus­sia hacked into Demo­cratic servers and stole emails in an ef­fort to help Trump win the elec­tion. In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Eileen Sul­li­van and Michael D. Shear of The New

York Times; by Mike DeBonis and Ed O’Keefe of The Wash­ing­ton

Post; and by To­luse Olorun­nipa, Steven T. Den­nis, Laura Cur­tis and Anna Edgerton of Bloomberg News.

AP/MANUEL BALCE CENETA

House Speaker Paul Ryan sidestepped a di­rect state­ment Tues­day on At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions’ job sta­tus, say­ing it’s “up to the pres­i­dent to de­cide what his per­son­nel de­ci­sion is and any pos­si­ble fall­out that comes from that.”

AP/JOHN LOCHER

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions was the tar­get of more crit­i­cism Tues­day by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who de­clined to say if he wants Ses­sions to re­sign. “We will see what hap­pens,” Trump said. “Time will tell. Time will tell.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.