Trump’s swipes at Sessions persist
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, questioning on Twitter why the top U.S. law enforcement official had not replaced the acting FBI director — a move that Trump has the authority to do.
Trump has for days been attacking his attorney general, and he has similarly been critical of Andrew McCabe, who took over as the acting director of the FBI after Trump fired James Comey.
In two tweets just before 10 a.m., Trump wrote: “Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars ($700,000) for his wife’s political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!”
But Sessions was not the attorney general during the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. And the president himself could remove McCabe without Sessions. Indeed, administration officials contemplated doing so after Comey’s firing. Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with four other candidates to lead the FBI on an interim basis, though the administration ultimately stuck with McCabe.
The others who interviewed were Michael Anderson, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago division; Adam Lee, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Richmond division; Paul Abbate, the executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch; and William “Bill” Evanina, the national counterintelligence executive in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Asked during the White House news briefing Wednesday why Trump hadn’t simply removed McCabe himself, spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted that he had nominated Christopher Wray, a white-collar defense lawyer who had previously led the Justice Department’s criminal division, to take the permanent FBI director job. She said Trump was “looking forward to getting him confirmed soon.”
In recent days, Trump has talked with advisers about replacing Sessions as his attorney general, and he has simultaneously criticized him in public. He has called Sessions “very weak” on investigating Clinton’s “crimes” and claimed he had not aggressively hunted those who have leaked intelligence secrets since he has been in office.
Congressional Republicans have come to the defense of Sessions, publicly urging Trump to back off his criticism of the attorney general.
In a brief interview Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reiterated his public support for Sessions, which came Tuesday when McConnell praised Sessions’ job performance and voiced support for the attorney general’s recusal in the Russian investigation.
Arkansas’ two U.S. senators also have both expressed support for Sessions.
“He’s a good Christian guy that’s working hard to do the very best that he can do and I support him fully. I can’t imagine anybody being a better attorney general than Jeff Sessions,” U.S. Sen. John Boozman said.
The Republican from Rogers also defended Sessions’ handling of the Russia investigation.
“He felt like he needed to recuse himself because he thought that was the right thing to do. I respect that,” Boozman said.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Dardanelle, stood by his former colleague on Tuesday.
“Jeff Sessions is a good man and a fine Attorney General. Jeff is working to keep our streets safe, secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws, and protect our nation,” Cotton said in a written statement. Information for this article was contributed by Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Paul Kane, Philip Rucker and Jenna Johnson of The Washington Post and by Frank E. Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.