Trump Once Again Openly Humiliates His Attorney General

In an early morning Tweetstorm, President Trump said he would not have hired Jeff Sessions if he knew he'd recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Returning to a familiar target, President Trump is now saying that he wishes he had never selected Jeff Sessions to be his Attorney General:

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Wednesday that he wished he had chosen another lawyer to be his attorney general, instead of Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the sensitive Russia investigation early in the Trump administration.

Mr. Trump was responding to an interview on CBS with Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina. Mr. Gowdy had said the president was justified in his frustration with Mr. Sessions because Mr. Sessions did not tell Mr. Trump he planned to recuse himself.

In the CBS interview, which aired Wednesday morning, Mr. Gowdy said, “There are lots of really good lawyers in the country, he could have picked somebody else!”

“I wish I did!” Mr. Trump said in a tweet later in the morning.

Since the recusal by Mr. Sessions in March 2017, the president has publicly and privately lashed out at the attorney general, and the sentiment on Wednesday was no surprise.

After Mr. Sessions recused himself, Mr. Trump asked his attorney general to reverse his decision — a request that has raised the interest of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

During the course of his Senate confirmation hearings early last year, as rumors circulated about an investigation into Russia’s possible coordination with Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, Mr. Sessions was asked whether he would recuse himself. At the time, Mr. Sessions said he did not know of a specific reason as to why he should do so.

But he also said, “If a matter arose in which I believed my impartiality might reasonably be questioned, I would consult with department ethics officials regarding the most appropriate way to proceed.”

More from The Washington Post:

President Trump said Wednesday that he wished he had picked someone other than Jeff Sessions to be attorney general, renewing a slight of the former senator who recused himself from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

In morning tweets, Trump quoted Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who during a Wednesday morning television interview on CBS voiced sympathy for Trump’s past expressions of frustration with Sessions’s recusal from the inquiry.

“If I were the president and I picked someone to be the country’s chief law enforcement officer, and they told me later, ‘Oh by the way, I’m not going to be able to participate in the most important case in the office,’ I would be frustrated too,” Gowdy said, according to Trump’s tweets. “There are lots of really good lawyers in the country, he could have picked somebody else!”

After that, Trump added, in his own voice: “And I wish I did!”

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment about Trump’s assessment of Sessions. As president, Trump has the power to end Sessions’s employment at any time.

Sessions, one of Trump’s biggest boosters during the 2016 campaign, recused himself in March 2017 from any investigations related to the campaign. The announcement came a day after The Washington Post revealed that Sessions had twice met with Sergey Kislyak, the U.S. ambassador to the United States, during the campaign and did not disclose that to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing in January.

Career lawyers at the Justice Department had advised Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, to step aside, citing ethics guidelines about impartiality and his role as a prominent Trump supporter.

Since then, Trump has repeatedly berated Sessions for his decision, at one point last summer calling it “very unfair” to him.

The New York Times reported Tuesday night that Trump, during a meeting at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida shortly after Sessions’s announcement, lambasted Sessions and told him he should reverse his decision, but Sessions refused.

Since that encounter, Trump has called Sessions “beleaguered,” among other derogatory terms, and questioned why the Justice Department has not been as aggressive about investigating Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, as it has his campaign.

Associates have said that Trump believes that if Sessions had not recused himself, a special counsel never would have been appointed to investigate possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign.

Trump’s response to the inquiry also has raised the possibility of obstruction of justice charges, which special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating.

Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein after Sessions recused himself.

Trump’s tweets Wednesday come as he and his lawyers have been seeking to discredit Mueller’s investigation and have cast doubt on whether Trump will voluntarily submit to an interview by Mueller’s team.

Here are Trump’s Tweets from this morning:

Trump’s frustration with Attorney General Sessions isn’t new, of course. Virtually from the time more than a year ago when Sessions first recused himself from supervision over the Russia investigation due to his own contacts with Russian officials while acting as a surrogate for the Trump campaign, Sessions has been the subject of continued attacks by the President who selected him. It’s been reported, for example, that Trump was openly humiliating Sessions in front of aides and Cabinet officials in the wake of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to appoint Robert Mueller as Special Counsel shortly after the President fired James Comey as Director of the F.B.I. At other points during the summer of 2017, as the Russia investigation moved close to the President’s inner circle, the President attacked Sessions on Twitter and in interviews where he made it clear that he was upset about the fact that Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation. In July of last year, there was even open speculation that Trump was on the verge of firing Sessions and replacing him with someone such as former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. While that speculation proved to be unfounded, at least so far, it makes clear that Sessions’ decision to recuse himself continues to be something that bothers Trump specifically because he believes it is what led to Mueller’s appointment and the expansion of the investigation. All of this happened notwithstanding the fact that Sessions was the first Senator, and the first prominent figure in Washington, to endorse Trump’s campaign for the Republican nomination back in 2016.

In theory, of course, there is nothing stopping Trump from either firing Sessions outright or demanding that he submit his resignation. Like the other Cabinet Secretaries, Sessions holds his position at the pleasure of the President and could be dismissed at any time. The fact that Trump has not done so given his rhetoric, is somewhat surprising but there’s likely a practical explanation for that. Simply put, it’s likely that Trump would not be able to get a new Attorney General confirmed if it appeared that he was firing Sessions with the intention of putting someone in his place who would seek to bring an early end to the Russia investigation or otherwise limit its scope. Many Republicans in the Senate, though, have made it clear that they would block any effort to confirm a replacement for Sessions in that situation, and Democrats would obviously do the same if such a thing were to happen if they take control of the Senate in November. This would mean that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller in the first place, would become Acting Attorney General. If anything, that would be even worse from Trump’s point of view.

The other possibility, of course, is that Sessions himself decides that he’s had enough of this humiliation and resign of his own accord. While that could happen at any time, of course, it seems unlikely at the present time. At this point, Sessions appears to see himself as a bulwark against the President at the Justice Department at this point, and Rosenstein’s own public comments demonstrate that he shares a similar view. Given that, neither one of them seem likely to be going anywhere anytime soon. As I noted on Twitter this morning, it would be ironic if Jeff Sessions would be the one coming out of this Trumpidian mess as a hero, but that certainly seems to be how it looks.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, Russia Investigation, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    Simply put, it’s likely that Trump would not be able to get a new Attorney General confirmed if it appeared that he was firing Sessions with the intention of putting someone in his place who would seek to bring an early end to the Russia investigation or otherwise limit its scope.

    I suppose that’s possible, but it’s so unlike Trump to think ahead. It is like him to complain that one of his cabinet is acting ethically (for a change)

    Another possibility is that Sessions, or someone who likes Sessions, has something on Trump. Thus Cheeto Benito can’t fire his AG, or not just yet.

    Trump’s actions remind me of Achilles near the beginning of the Iliad. He’s just about ready to drive a sword through Agamemnon, when Athena comes down from Olympus and relays an order from Hera not to harm Agamemnon physically. She then tells him he can rail and rant and rave and call him every name in the book, but he can’t lay a finger on him.

    I’ve no proof for this, of course, and I don’t take it seriously. but it does give that kind of impression. After all, if Sessions does resign, it would be so obvious it was due to Trump’s incessant bullying, that some Republicans might follow through on their promise not to confirm a replacement.

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  2. pylon says:

    One the one hand, it’s appalling the things Trump doesn’t know about recusal, AGs in general and what he can and/or shouldn’t be able to do.

    On the other hand, Sessions deserves every bit of humiliation he gets.

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  3. CSK says:

    Sessions did try to resign, at least twice. The first time, either Kelly or Mattis talked him out of it. And he handed in a letter of resignation this past April, that Trump didn’t accept.

    Maybe Sessions is hanging on for the pure pleasure of seeing Trump humiliated.

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  4. MarkedMan says:

    It is ironic that Sessions, of all people, may indeed be one of the few people associated with Trump that comes out smelling better than he went in (not a high bar). But it should be noted that is because he is defying Trump, not enabling him.

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  5. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Defying Trump would be to Sessions’s credit–whatever the reason.

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  6. Kylopod says:

    @pylon:

    On the other hand, Sessions deserves every bit of humiliation he gets.

    In the words of Clint Eastwood from Unforgiven, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”

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  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Dennison knew his campaign was under investigation before he was inaugurated.
    That he didn’t know Jefferson Beauregard was going to recuse himself is only testimony to the manifest incompetence of this POTUS.

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  8. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Ah, yes. Another testimonial to Trump’s assertion that he only hires the best people.

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  9. Mister Bluster says:

    Trump rags on Sessions! Ho Hum.

    Roseanne moons the world on Twitter! Mildly disturbing.

    Professional Wrestling is still fake!

    Kremlin critic turns up alive at televised briefing about his ‘murder’

    Now you got my attention!

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  10. An Interested Party says:

    Wow, this freak show makes past administrations, even those with a few bumps like Clinton’s, or Reagan’s second term, look staid and solemn by comparison…I wonder how many of the people who voted for the Orange Blob like having a constant episode of “The Apprentice” going on in this White House…Republicans like James Joyner must look on in shame at what has happened to their party…

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  11. Kathy says:

    Let there be no doubt Sessions is contemptible in his authoritarian approach to the law. His two signature policies, enforcing federal marijuana laws on states where weed is legal, and treating all undocumented immigrants like criminals (including the latest cruelty of separating families), have no place in a free, humane society.

    But his legal ethics in the Russia probe are adequate.

    So, yes, the bar in the Trump era is so low, even a flatworm can’t limbo underneath it.

    I wonder if this is what Bush the younger meant by “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Probably not.

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  12. gVOR08 says:

    Little Jeffy Jeff is an unreconstructed racist asshat. But he’s not stupid. Trump made one failed attempt to fire Sessions that we know of. Trump’s WH Counsel doesn’t want to commit Obstruction by firing Sessions. So until Trumpsky gets really desperate, Sessions is safe and can pursue his hobby of oppressing dark skinned people while avoiding getting involved in Obstruction.

    What worries me is the Solicitor General, Noel Francisco, who seems typecast for the Robert Bork role if Trump does a rerun of the Saturday Night Massacre. But I expect Mueller’s people have thumb drives at home and are ready to hit SEND to SDNY and various State Att’ys General if Trumpsky fires Mueller.

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  13. Joe says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Although made in the shadow of revelations that Sessions had failed to advise Congress about his communications with the Russians, Sessions reportedly recused himself because he was a major player in a campaign under investigation. That campaign was under investigation before Trump nominated Sessions. Sessions’ recusal was totally knowable. That no one thought through the implications of putting Sessions in the AG spot is another testament to what a waste of space the Trump transition team was.

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  14. rachel says:

    @Joe: They may have only realized the implications far enough to think, “When our guy’s in charge, he’ll just make all this go away.”

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  15. MBunge says:

    Or…and I know this is a crazy idea…Trump could be a guy who knows he hasn’t done anything wrong and is frustrated at having to deal with a seemingly endless investigation.

    Mike

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  16. CSK says:

    @MBunge:

    Then he should just ignore it till it goes away.

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  17. Kylopod says:

    @MBunge:

    Or…and I know this is a crazy idea…Trump could be a guy who knows he hasn’t done anything wrong and is frustrated at having to deal with a seemingly endless investigation.

    You’re right: it is a crazy idea. Smartest thing you’ve said in a while. Keep up the good work!

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  18. grumpy realist says:

    @MBunge: Compare the length of the investigation with the length of other governmental investigations. How many years did the Benghazi investigations take?!

    All this proves is that your Dear Leader doesn’t have the patience to deal with government as it actually exists. If he’s that cheesed off, he can bloody well QUIT or learn how to sit in the corner and wait until the adults have finished talking!

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  19. An Interested Party says:

    …Trump could be a guy who knows he hasn’t done anything wrong…

    For someone who has supposedly done nothing wrong, he certainly does act like he’s guilty of something…I wonder why…

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  20. Kathy says:

    Good evening, this is your daily reminder not to take a joke too far.

    Don’t take the joke too far.

    Thank you. This has been your daily reminder not to take a joke too far.

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  21. Mister Bluster says:

    Trump could be a guy who knows he hasn’t done anything wrong…
    I’m sure you truly believe that committing adultery with a porn star and grabbing women by the pussy is acceptable adult behavior. It goes right along with thinking that ripping children from their mothers is just fine.
    And more reasons for you to worship your golden calf.

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  22. CSK says:

    By the way, Trump’s “I wish I did” really grates on me. It should be “I wish I had.” How conversant with English grammar do you have to be to know that?

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  23. Guarneri says:

    “In an early morning Tweetstorm, President Trump said he would not have hired Jeff Sessions if he knew he’d recuse himself from the Russia investigation.”

    The same view that any president would have.

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  24. Guarneri says:

    @CSK:

    It’s good to see you have found your highest and best use……….as the resident school marm.

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  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:

    The same view that any president would have.

    Bullshit. Any reasonable, experienced, rational – and innocent – president would have been grateful to have an AG who did not violate DOJ policy and thus cause a scandal.

    BTW, this ‘schooling’ is brought to you from SAS flight 935, high above the lower tip of Norway. Because: technology! I have a look-down camera, a choice of movies I don’t really want to watch, and a Swedish single malt. I love the 21st century. And just imagine how great it’ll be once the dinosaurs die off. (See how mature I’m being? I didn’t even call you names. Or specifically ID as one of the dinosaurs. Like Steganeri. Or Drewsaurus.)

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  26. grumpy realist says:

    @Guarneri: I see that integrity and obeying the law are unknown merits in your mental universe.

    If I were a tax guy, I’d be very interested in pulling your records and auditing you.

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  27. gVOR08 says:

    Balloon Juice quotes Jeb Lund on how few friends Trump has, not just among Dems, where he has done, but among Rs, who could stand to make a show of anti-corruption.

    After a long list of extraordinarily deserving, very very beautiful, very very talented runners-up — from Jefferson Davis, to Warren Harding, to Richard Nixon, to Ronald Reagan, to George W. Bush — Donald Trump can become the first president from the United States to die in prison…

    A boy can dream, can’t he?

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  28. Rick DeMent says:

    @MBunge:

    Or…and I know this is a crazy idea…Trump could be a guy who knows he hasn’t done anything wrong and is frustrated at having to deal with a seemingly endless investigation.

    You mean like Hillary Clinton did? (she did it like a boss, not a whiner)

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  29. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Guarneri:

    The same view that any president would have.

    Any other president, who knew his campaign was under investigation, would have been competent enough to ask his candidate for AG what he would do in such a case.
    Dennison does not meet the minimum competency requirements for the office.
    Yet you fawn over his ineptitude.
    Whats that sphincter taste like, Drew?

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  30. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:

    Or…and I know this is a crazy idea…Trump could be a guy who knows he hasn’t done anything wrong and is frustrated at having to deal with a seemingly endless investigation.

    1). Dennison was warned that Russians would try to infiltrate…and that if anything looked suspicious he should notify the FBI.
    2). When approached by Russians, instead of notifying the FBI, Dennison welcomed and encouraged the aid.
    3). Dennison publicly discounted Russian interventions, saying it was probably a 400# man in his mothers basement (J-E-N-O-S?)
    4). This investigation is nowhere near as long as previous, similar, investigations, and yet it has resulted in more guilty pleas and indictments than those similar investigations.
    If your opinions are based on misleading bullshit, then your opinions are misleading bullshit.

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  31. CSK says:

    @Guarneri:

    That’s why they pay me the big bucks.

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  32. Mikey says:

    So Trump is going to pardon Dinesh D’Souza…who TOOK A PLEA DEAL because he was so obviously guilty he’d have gone to jail for five years otherwise.

    This isn’t some veiled message-sending to Flynn, Manafort, et al., it’s a screaming fifty-foot billboard.

    And the rule of law takes another blow.

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  33. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Mikey:

    So Trump is going to pardon Dinesh D’Souz

    D’Souz was convicted for violating campaign laws…so it makes sense that Dennison would have a soft spot for him.
    If Dennison is going to take care of scum like this…it’s going to get even uglier before it is all over.

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  34. teve tory says:

    All trump’s handlers are desperate to keep him from answering Mueller’s questions. The people closest to him think he’s incapable of not lying. People who have IQs above room temperature understand that.

    “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

    ― George Carlin

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  35. gVOR08 says:

    @Mikey:

    So Trump is going to pardon Dinesh D’Souza

    Practice. Plus he feels an affinity for D’Souza, who’s also a lying piece of it.

    With Roseanne, this is a reminder of our root problem. How do you maintain democracy when large numbers of people believe utter screaming nonsense like D’Souza’s stuff?

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