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20 July 2017

Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions ‘to stay in job’

Jeff Sessions - 20 JulyImage copyright
Getty Images

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Mr Sessions said he loved the job and the department

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he will continue to serve Donald Trump despite sharp criticism from the president.

Mr Trump told the New York Times on Wednesday he would never have appointed Mr Sessions if he had known he was going to recuse himself from leading a Russia investigation.

He also said Mr Sessions had given “bad answers” at his confirmation hearing.

Mr Sessions recused himself after admitting meeting Russia’s ambassador.

Associated Press news agency quoted a Trump adviser as saying the president’s comments did not mean he was going to sack the attorney general but the adviser questioned whether such a public dressing-down might prompt him to quit.

However, Mr Sessions said on Thursday he would not resign but would continue running the justice department effectively.

“I have the honour of serving as attorney general,” he said.

“It is something that goes beyond any thought I would have ever had for myself.

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Reuters

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Mr Sessions was one of Donald Trump’s earliest supporters for the presidency

“We love this job, we love this department, and I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate.”

Mr Sessions would have headed the justice department’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election. Congress is also conducting inquiries.

His recusal ultimately led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to lead the investigation.

The Times interview reflects the anger the president feels at this development.

He said: “A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case… 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.”

Mr Trump said Mr Sessions had given him “zero” notice of the recusal.

He then reflected on the “bad answers” Mr Sessions gave at his Senate confirmation hearing in January at which he denied meeting any Russians. He later revealed he had met Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.


Analysis: The price of loyalty

Anthony Zurcher, BBC North America reporter

With Donald Trump, loyalty will only get you so far.

Mr Sessions was the earliest and most enthusiastic of Mr Trump’s top-tier political supporters, and he was rewarded with a plum Cabinet appointment. Now, however, that position of power appears not quite as golden a prize.

While the former Alabama senator has toiled to implement the president’s agenda as attorney general, Mr Trump personally blames him for the ongoing independent counsel investigation that has bedevilled his presidency.

The irony is that while Mr Trump views Mr Sessions’s recusal from the Russia probe as a betrayal, the attorney general made clear during his confirmation hearings that he would likely do just that if he were implicated in an investigation that had not yet begun in earnest.

It was only later that then-FBI Director James Comey – himself a target of the president’s scorn – revealed the Trump campaign itself was under the microscope.

Now the president has made clear that Mr Sessions lacks his full confidence. While the attorney general says he loves his job and plans to keep it, how secure can his position be when his boss lobs bomb after bomb his way from the White House?

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