WORLD Trump escalates feud with Sessions

WORLD

Trump escalates feud with Sessions

AP

20:13, August 24, 2018

Trump.jpeg

President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, in Washington. (Photo: AP)

President Donald Trump escalated his long-running feud with Attorney General Jeff Sessions Friday, calling on him to probe a litany of recurring complaints against those investigating his administration and Democrats.

Responding to Sessions’ declaration that he would not be influenced by politics, Trump tweeted that Sessions must “look into all of the corruption on the “other side,“” later adding: “Come on Jeff, you can do it, the country is waiting!”

The president’s pushback marked the second day of highly public smack down between Trump and his beleaguered attorney general.

Earlier this week, Trump, concerned by the legal downfall of two former advisers, accused Sessions of failing to take control of the Justice Department. Sessions punched back Thursday, saying that he and his department “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”

Trump’s anger with Sessions boiled over in an interview with Fox News in which the president also expressed frustration with the plea agreement his onetime legal “fixer” Michael Cohen cut with prosecutors, including implicating Trump in a crime that Cohen admitted. Trump said it might be better if “flipping” — cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for more favorable treatment— were illegal because people cooperating with the government “just make up lies” to get favorable treatment.

On Twitter Friday, Trump also complained about the five-year sentence given to a former government contractor convicted of mailing a classified US report to a news organization.

Trump said “this is “small potatoes” compared to what Hillary Clinton did.” Prosecutors are calling that sentence handed down to 26-year-old Reality Winner the longest sentence imposed for a federal crime involving leaks to the media.

In the wide-ranging Fox interview, Trump also defended himself against talk of impeachment — “the market would crash ... everybody would be very poor” — tried to distance himself from Cohen — “I would see him sometimes” — and said anew that he hadn’t known in advance about Cohen’s hush money payments to silence women alleging sexual relationships with the celebrity businessman.

Trump’s latest shots against law enforcement came as he appeared increasingly vulnerable to long-running investigations after this week’s one-two punch of Cohen’s plea deal and the conviction of Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort.

Trump has spent more than a year publicly and privately venting over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the federal Russia-collusion investigation because he’d worked on Trump’s campaign. Trump, who blames that decision for the eventual appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, told “Fox and Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt that Sessions “never took control of the Justice Department and it’s a sort of an incredible thing.”

“What kind of man is this?” Trump said.

“You know the only reason I gave him the job? Because I felt loyalty, he was an original supporter,” Trump said of Sessions, an Alabama Republican who was the first senator to endorse Trump’s bid.

Sessions has made clear to associates that he has no intention of leaving his job voluntarily despite Trump’s constant criticism. But his tone in his statement on Thursday made clear he is tired of the president’s attacks.

“I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda.” Then he declared, that while he’s attorney general the actions of the department “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action.”

Allies, including Republican members of Congress have long advised Trump that firing Sessions — especially before the upcoming midterm elections — would be deeply damaging to the party.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who in March said firing Sessions would “blow up” the Judiciary Committee, has been shifting his tone.

“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,” he told reporters on Thursday. “Clearly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”

Others stood by Sessions.

Republican Ben Sasse of Nebraska told Senate colleagues, “Everybody in this body knows that Jeff Sessions is doing his job honorably, and the attorney general of the United States should not be fired for acting honorably and for being faithful to the rule of law.” He said it would be really difficult to confirm a successor “if he is fired because he is executing his job rather that choosing to act as a partisan hack.”

People close to the president said they were not aware of any immediate plans to dismiss Sessions, at least before the November congressional elections.

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