The under-fire attorney general defends his move after fierce criticism from Donald Trump
Jeff Sessions has defended his decision to recuse himself from the investigation of Russias interference in the 2016 election, calling his choice consistent for the rule of law.
An attorney general who doesnt follow the law is not very effective in leading the department of justice, Sessions told Fox News Tucker Carlson in a taped interview on Thursday.
Since last week, Trump has continually criticized Sessions, one of his earliest supporters, for deciding to recuse himself from overseeing the politically fraught investigation of whether Trumps campaign had any connections to Russias attempt to meddle in Americas presidential election.
Sessions announced he would recuse himself in March, shortly after it became public that he had met twice with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, despite telling senators during his confirmation hearing that he had not.
He reiterated on Thursday that his recusal was consistent with expert advice within the justice department and the integrity thats required of the attorney general.
Last week, Trump lashed out at this decision in an interview with the New York Times, calling Sessions choice to recuse himself very unfair to the president. That interview kicked off a week of public speculation about whether Sessions would be fired or forced to resign. The president fueled the speculation with one angry tweet and interview about Sessions after another.
Being labeled very weak and beleaguered by a president who publicly speculated about firing him has been kind of hurtful, Sessions conceded in his Fox News interview on Thursday, but he said he is still determined to do his job.
I understand [Trumps] feelings about it, because this has been a big distraction for him, Sessions said of the Russia investigation, which the president has raged against for months, calling it a witch hunt.
But, Sessions told Carlson, Im confident I made the right decisions.
He went on to praise the President as a strong leader who is determined to get his job done.
Sessions told both Fox and the Associated Press on Thursday that he acknowledged the president could fire him at any time.
I serve at the pleasure of the president. Ive understood that from the day I took the job, Sessions said.
He told the Associated Press he was aware that he had not had the best week in his relationship with Trump, who told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that he did not believe that Sessions deserved special credit for his loyalty. Sessions, a hardline conservative senator from Alabama, was the first senator to endorse Trump, at a time when he was still largely rejected by most Republicans.
If he wants to make a change he can certainly do so and I would be glad to yield in that circumstance; no doubt about it, Sessions told Tucker Carlson. But I do believe that were making tremendous progress. I can feel the movement that were doing. We had a 25% increase in prosecution of criminals with guns just this last quarter; the first real quarter that Ive been in office…. prosecutions are going to be up.
Trump is slated to visit Long Island on Friday to focus on the scourge of murders allegedly committed by MS-13 gang member there, which includes the fatal beatings of two high school girls.
In San Salvador on Thursday, local prosecutors greeted Sessions with the news that they had charged hundreds of alleged MS-13 gang members, a development the justice department trumpeted in a press release.
The president tweeted enthusiastically about this issue on Thursday afternoon, noting: Big progress being made in ridding our country of MS-13 gang members and gang members in general. MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN!