WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that President Donald Trump’s critical tweets about him were “kind of hurtful,” but insists he “made the right decision” in recusing himself from investigations related to the 2016 campaign.
“I understand his feelings about it,” Sessions told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Thursday of Trump, who recently said he is “disappointed” in the Justice Department head. “Because this has been a big distraction for him. But … I’m confident I made the right decision, a decision that’s consistent with the rule of law.”
Sessions said that the flurry of tweets Trump has sent off criticizing him were not the easiest to swallow, but he still defended his boss’s leadership style.
“Well it’s kind of hurtful, but the President of the United States is a strong leader,” Sessions said, adding that he believes Trump remains committed to making the country “great again.”
“He is determined to move this country in the direction he believes it needs to go to make us great again, and he has had a lot of criticisms — and he is steadfastly determined to get his job done and he wants all of us to do our jobs and that’s what I intend to do,” Sessions said.
The public criticism of Sessions by Trump has persisted for weeks. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “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!”
Trump publicly voiced his displeasure with his attorney general during an interview with The New York Times published last week. He said that he would not have chosen Sessions to be his attorney general had he known Sessions would recuse himself from investigations into matters related to the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump’s remarks represent an extraordinary rebuke from the President toward the nation’s top law enforcement official, who is also one of his earliest political allies — Sessions was the first sitting senator to back Trump’s presidential bid.
“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the President,” Trump said in the interview. “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.”
Sessions said if Trump “wants to make a change, he can certainly do so,” but noted that he thinks the Department of Justice is “making tremendous progress” under his leadership.
“We’ve achieved in many ways more than I thought at this point in time,” he said.
When asked about investigations into criminal leaks — which Trump has asked the Department of Justice to crack down on — Sessions said he has “not been happy with past prosecutions and investigations.”
“It cannot continue, some people need to go to jail,” he said. “The President has every right to ask the Department of Justice to be more aggressive in that, and we intend to.”
Sessions aid he doesn’t have any conversations with Trump scheduled in the near future.
“I don’t think it’s on the calendar yet,” he said when asked about any future meetings with the President. But “people have talked about it at the White House.”