The FINANCIAL — U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calling his former ally “very weak” in investigating intelligence leaks and for failing to probe former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency has reported that Trump has spoken privately to his political allies in recent days about the potential consequences of firing Sessions, according to RFE/RL.
But at a press conference on July 25, when asked about Sessions’ future as attorney general, Trump avoided saying whether Sessions would be fired — saying instead that “time will tell.”
Trump’s anger over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the government’s investigation of Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election became public on July 24 when Trump referred to the attorney general in a tweet as “beleaguered.”
Last week, Trump said he never would have appointed Sessions to be attorney general — the chief U.S. prosecutor — if he had known that Sessions would recuse himself.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails &DNC server) & Intel leakers!” Trump tweeted on July 25.
His remarks came after the Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, reported that Trump and his advisers have discussed replacing Sessions.
Trump also called on Sessions to investigate Clinton’s use of a private server to send e-mails when she was secretary of state.
Trump’s tweets, and mounting pressure on Sessions, have fueled speculation in Washington that the attorney general may resign even if Trump doesn’t fire him.
But several people close to Sessions have said he does not plan to quit.
Meanwhile, Trump’s criticism of Sessions has drawn a fiery response from some Republican lawmakers — suggesting that not all Republicans will support a presidential effort to oust the attorney general.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said on July 25 that “Trump’s tweet today suggesting Attorney General Sessions pursue prosecution of a former political rival is highly inappropriate.”
“Prosecutorial decisions should be based on applying facts to the law without hint of political motivation,” Graham said. “To do otherwise is to run away from the long-standing American tradition of separating the law from politics regardless of party.”
Trump’s tweets on July 25 also accused Ukraine of trying to “sabotage” his campaign, without offering any evidence.
Ukraine’s embassy in Washington denied Trump’s allegations with a tweet of its own saying, “We stand by our words that the government of Ukraine didn’t help any candidate” in the U.S. presidential election.
The Ukrainian embassy also said “Ukraine is proud of bipartisan support” in the United States.
Ukraine’s permanent representative to the Council of Europe, Dmytro Kuleba, also responded on Twitter to Trump’s allegations.
“Trump writes that we interfered in the elections in the USA, while Putin says that we threaten Russia,” Kuleba said. “There was a time when we were peaceful buckwheat sowers who kept themselves to themselves.”
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP