Shouldn’t have picked Sessions as attorney general: Trump after Russia probe recusal
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Shouldn’t have picked Sessions as attorney general: Trump after Russia probe recusal

Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Russian probe in March after the Washington Post reported that he met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign.

world Updated: Jul 20, 2017 11:18 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse, Washington
US President Donald Trump,Attorney General Jeff Sessions,Russia probe
President Donald Trump listens during a "Made in America," roundtable event in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, July 19, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo)

In a stunning public rebuke of a senior member of his administration, US President Donald Trump has said he would have never appointed Jeff Sessions the attorney general had he known he would recuse himself from the Russia probe.

Trump also held out a veiled threat to special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who has taken over the FBI’s Russia investigation, to not look into his family’s finances as the President came up with fresh allegations against former FBI director James Comey.

“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump told The New York Times in an interview on Wednesday.

While Trump has been critical of Mueller and Comey, his criticism of Sessions, one of his earliest political allies when most Republicans were leery of his chances, stunned even his supporters and raised questions about the attorney general’s future.

Sessions excused himself from the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election being conducted by the FBI, which reports to the department of justice he heads, after he came under fire for not disclosing that he had met the Russian ambassador as a senator.

That didn’t go down well with Trump.

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

He also attacked the rest of the justice department leadership and of the FBI, all of whom have had something to do with the Russia probe that dogged his young presidency, with the focus now on former campaign aides and his family, including eldest son Donald Trump Jr and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

There was no response from Sessions to the outburst. But some conservatives, including supporters of the President, wondered if Trump had gone too far this time.

“No one in America can match the excellence of @JeffSessions as Attorney General,” leading Republican lawmaker Steve King wrote on Twitter, adding, “Trump agenda would be crippled w\o (without) him.”

Sessions is a hawk when it comes to immigration, a long-time critic of the H-1B temporary visa programme popular with Indian IT companies and an enthusiastic enforcer of the President’s controversial tough-on-crime approach.

The public berating is being seen as a betrayal of an ally and an unmistakably clear directive to Sessions to turn in his papers. “The President today effectively asked Sessions for his resignation. Will he resign or insist on being fired?” Preet Bharara, former US attorney and Trump critic, tweeted.

Sessions is reported to have offered to resign before -- in the days before the President’s first overseas tour in June -- over Trump’s anger about the recusal and travel ban complications but it was evidently not accepted.

First Published: Jul 20, 2017 08:56 IST