'I don't have an attorney-general': Trump escalates his attacks on Jeff Sessions

US President Donald Trump (left) with Attorney-General Jeff Sessions at a graduation ceremony in Quantico, Virginia, on Dec 15, 2017.
US President Donald Trump (left) with Attorney-General Jeff Sessions at a graduation ceremony in Quantico, Virginia, on Dec 15, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - US President Donald Trump escalated his attacks on Attorney-General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday (Sept 18), offering a scathing assessment of his performance on the job and in his confirmation hearing.

"I don't have an attorney-general. It's very sad," Mr Trump said in an interview with Hill.TV, in which he also said the former senator from Alabama came off as "mixed up and confused" when he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2017.

Mr Trump has long been publicly critical of Mr Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and said that he has regretted nominating him to lead the Justice Department.

But in the Hill.TV interview, Mr Trump offered broader criticism, including on Mr Sessions' handling of immigration issues, which has been cheered by Trump allies.

"I'm not happy at the border, I'm not happy with numerous things, not just this," Mr Trump said, referring to the Russian investigation.

Mr Sessions has implemented some of the most aggressive and controversial steps to try to crack down on illegal immigration - emphasising "zero tolerance" for those who come to the country illegally, defending the policy of separating families, and issuing a ruling that limits those who qualify for asylum, among other things.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on Wednesday morning.

In the interview, Mr Trump suggested he appointed Mr Sessions out of blind loyalty.

 
 
 

"I'm so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me," Mr Trump said. "He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney-general, and I didn't see it."

Mr Trump said Mr Sessions did "very poorly" during the confirmation process.

"I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers," Mr Trump said.

"Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him."

Citing Justice Department regulations, Mr Sessions announced his recusal from the Russia investigation in March because of his prominent role in the Trump campaign.

Part of the investigation now led by special counsel Robert Mueller is focusing on whether Mr Trump's campaign coordinated with Russia.

Mr Trump, as President, could fire Mr Sessions at any time, but for more than a year, he has chosen instead merely to insult his attorney-general. Mr Trump has previously suggested he is unlikely to fire Mr Sessions before the mid-term elections in November.

Mr Trump did not offer a firm answer when asked about Mr Sessions's future by Hill.TV.

"We'll see what happens," he said. "A lot of people have asked me to do that. And I guess I study history, and I say I just want to leave things alone, but it was very unfair what he did."

"We'll see how it goes with Jeff," Mr Trump added. "I'm very disappointed in Jeff. Very disappointed."