Attorney General Jeff Sessions shared on Thursday that he was hurt by President Trump’s public criticism of his job performance, but he declared that he intended to carry on in his role. Sessions promised his continued commitment with the president to prosecute violent crime and leaks of sensitive information.
In a Fox News interview, the attorney general expressed sympathy for Trump’s statements about the Russian investigation. But he also defended his decision to recuse himself from that inquiry.
“It’s kind of hurtful,” Mr. Sessions said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” referring to the personal criticism directed at him. Trump tweeted that Sessions was “very weak.” Sessions rose above the derision by saying, “But the president of the United States is a strong leader.”
In a news conference earlier this week, the president repeated what he had already said to the New York Times: He would not have appointed Mr. Sessions had he known the attorney general would recuse himself from the inquiry into Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election and possible collusion with Mr. Trump’s campaign.
Sessions had remained silent beyond stating that he would keep his job “as long as that is appropriate.” But on Thursday with Fox News, Sessions went further and revealed the personal impact of Trump’s words and his commitment to move forward with the president’s agenda.
“I understand his feelings about it because this has been a big distraction for him,” Mr. Sessions said of the Russia inquiry. He stood his ground and said that he had followed the recommendation of the Justice Department’s ethics lawyers when he recused himself.
“An attorney general who doesn’t follow the law is not very effective in leading the Department of Justice,” Mr. Sessions said. “Knowing the integrity that’s required of the attorney general, I believe I made the right decision.”
But Sessions expressed sympathy for President Trump. “He has had a lot of criticism, and he’s steadfast, determined to get his job done,” Mr. Sessions said. He said the president “wants all of us to do our job, and that’s what I intend to do.”
The attorney general promised to step up prosecutions and leak investigations. Sessions said that leaks “cannot continue, so people need to go to jail. The president has every right to ask the Department of Justice to be more aggressive in that, and we intend to.”
Sessions told Fox News that he did not have any upcoming conversations with the president planned. “But I believe that I understand his mission,” he said. “I understand his goals — that’s why I supported him for president.”
He also made it clear that he understood how short his time as the nation’s top law enforcement official could be. “I serve at the pleasure of the president,” he said. “I’ve understood that from the day I took the job.”
What do you think about the way that Jeff Sessions is handling himself?
Credit: New York Times