Trump Tells Sessions to Probe Corruption on the ‘Other Side’
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he wants Jeff Sessions to look into corruption on the "other side" of the Russia investigation that he regularly derides as a witch hunt, as the row between the two men threatened the attorney general’s job security.
Trump’s call came the day after Fox News aired an interview in which the president bashed Sessions by saying he never gained control over the Justice Department and asking “what type of man” would recuse himself from the Russia probe as Sessions did.
Sessions, who represented Alabama in the Senate for 20 years and was an early backer of Trump, defended his performance in a statement on Thursday, saying “the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
Trump quoted back that statement in his Friday morning tweet, adding, “Jeff, this is GREAT, what everyone wants, so look into all of the corruption on the ‘other side’ including deleted Emails, Comey lies & leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr.”
Later on, he said: “Open up the papers & documents without redaction? Come on Jeff, you can do it, the country is waiting!”
Keeping up the attacks on Sessions, Trump pointed to the 5-year prison sentence a federal judge handed down Thursday against former Air Force linguist and intelligence contractor Reality Winner for leaking a top-secret report on Russian hacking. “Gee, this is ‘small potatoes’ compared to what Hillary Clinton did! So unfair Jeff, Double Standard,” he wrote.
Confronted with the criminal convictions this week of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, the president has only reaffirmed his open resentment that Sessions recused himself from what’s become a wide-ranging investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Inside the White House, though, Trump has put on a game face. He dropped in on a birthday party for three top staffers on Thursday -- economic adviser Larry Kudlow, senior adviser Stephen Miller, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders -- and thanked the assembled staff for their hard work, according to a person who was present.
Trump’s remarks were upbeat and humorous, and he didn’t mention Manafort, Cohen or Sessions, the person said. He left after about 10 minutes to a round of applause. Kudlow, Miller and Sanders each got a cake -- chocolate, carrot and cookie, respectively.
War of Words
The war of words with Sessions prompted some Republican lawmakers -- notably Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- to begin saying Trump may need to fire Sessions but that he should wait until after the November midterms.
“The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that’s qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice,” Graham, who oscillates between criticizing and defending Trump’s policies, told reporters.
But he added that forcing out Sessions before November “would create havoc” with efforts to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, as well as with midterms, which will determine whether Republicans keep control of Congress.
Senator Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa also changed his position on Thursday, saying in an interview that he’d be willing to make time for hearings on a new attorney general nominee after earlier saying that the panel was too busy to tackle that issue.
It wasn’t clear, though, whether the senators’ comments were intended to endorse Sessions’s removal, or simply to coax Trump out of taking action now. And some senior Republican senators strongly rejected Graham’s seemingly impromptu fire-him-later idea.
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