WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday sharply criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions but refused to say whether he would fire him or wanted him to resign, saying “time will tell” what fate awaits the former senator.
“I’m very disappointed with the attorney general, but we will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell,” Trump said during a joint Rose Garden press conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The president has recently unloaded on Sessions — who was the first sitting senator to endorse the brash real estate developer in the 2016 race — on Twitter and in a pair of newspaper interviews. Trump has repeatedly complained about Sessions’ decision to recuse himself in March from all campaign-related investigations, including the question of whether Trump aides colluded with Russia’s interference in the election. The Associated Press and Washington Post have reported that Trump is weighing whether to fire Sessions.
Asked why he was letting his loyal adviser twist in the wind rather than firing him, Trump replied: “I don’t think I am doing that — but I am disappointed in the attorney general.
“He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me prior to taking office and I would have quite simply picked somebody else,” Trump said. “I think that’s a bad thing, not for the president but for the presidency. I think it’s unfair to the presidency and that’s the way I feel.”
Trump said Sessions should be “much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking like rarely have they ever leaked before at a very important level.” He did not specify which unauthorized disclosures he meant.
The president’s odd public campaign against his own attorney general has included repeated calls on Twitter for Sessions to investigate Trump’s defeated 2016 rival for the White House, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s reluctance to say whether he may fire Sessions or wants him to resign may reflect a basic political reality: The former Alabama senator is well liked among Trump’s base, especially for his hard line on immigration. It’s also unclear how Trump would replace Sessions: Any nomination would run into a difficult confirmation process, with senators virtually certain to insist that the president’s pick would maintain his independence in the face of West Wing pressure. A number of Republican senators have already jumped to defend their former colleague. And Democrats reportedly plan to take the necessary parliamentary steps to prevent Trump from attempting a recess appointment.