Attorney General Jeff Sessions is in a bind following public criticism from President Trump of his decision to recuse himself from the Russian investigation.
Trump’s scathing criticism in an interview with The New York Times immediately sparked new questions about whether the nation’s top cop, one of the president’s earliest supporters, enjoys his confidence and support.
Sessions on Thursday made it clear he has no plans to leave his post, and several Republican lawmakers rushed to his defense.
“I think Jeff Sessions has been and will continue to be an excellent attorney general,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), an early Trump supporter who says he backed the decision by Sessions to recuse himself. “I don’t expect Jeff Sessions to resign, I would not want him to resign.”
Republicans on and off Capitol Hill marveled at the spectacle of Trump criticizing his own attorney general — and a politician seen as one of his closest allies.
“They need to put this behind them,” said GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak, who added that there is no benefit to Trump’s criticism of Sessions.
John Wood, a former U.S. attorney and chief of staff for the Department of Homeland Security in the Bush administration, said Sessions could continue to serve despite the criticism. But he said Trump’s comments likely hurt Sessions’ standing and could make it harder for him to lead the department.
“I don’t think it is to the point where Sessions has lost the ability to run the department,” he said.
Trump told The New York Times in a Wednesday interview that he would not have chosen Sessions to serve as attorney general had he known he would recuse himself.
“How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you,'” Trump told The Times.