After attacking AG Jeff Sessions for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton, Trump won't say if he will fire him
President Trump was up early on Tuesday morning to tweet about his current distaste for Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
WASHINGTON — Infuriated by the ongoing Russia investigations, President Trump stepped up his public criticism of Jeff Sessions on Tuesday – but declined to say whether he would fire the attorney general who was one of his earliest and staunchest supporters.
"I told you before, I’m very disappointed with the attorney general. But we will see what happens," Trump said at a Rose Garden news conference. "Time will tell. Time will tell."
The same day Trump attacked Sessions for failing to investigate former election opponent Hillary Clinton, the president was asked at a news conference why he continues to publicly criticize Sessions without specifically saying if he wants him to resign – and if Trump will fire him if he doesn't.
Trump denied he's letting Sessions twist in the wind. "I don’t think I am doing that," he said.
But he again insisted Sessions should not have recused himself from the ongoing federal investigation into whether Trump associates colluded with Russians who sought to interfere in last year's election.
"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."
Trump also said he wants Sessions to be much tougher "on the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking like rarely have they ever leaked before at a very important level. We cannot have that happen."
Just one day after calling his own attorney general "beleaguered," Trump kicked off his day Tuesday with an early morning tweetstorm in which he complained about leaks and called for an investigation into Clinton.
"Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!" Trump said.
Trump also criticized his attorney general for not pursuing reports from early this year that officials in Ukraine also sought to interfere in the election, in a tweet that referenced Fox News host Sean Hannity.
"Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign — 'quietly working to boost Clinton,'" Trump tweeted. "So where is the investigation A.G. @seanhannity."
A series of lawmakers and political analysts said it appears that Trump is attacking Sessions because he wants him to leave office, perhaps with an eye toward eventually getting rid of Russia investigation special counsel Robert Mueller.
"Fully transparent: @POTUS wants to force Sessions to resign so he can appoint someone to curb Mueller probe," tweeted Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Noting that a Sessions replacement would face a tough confirmation fight, Schiff added that Trump's putative plan "only works if Senate lets it."
Sessions, who has been criticized by Trump for weeks, has so far refused to resign.
When radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt told White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci that it looks like Trump wants Sessions to resign, Scaramucci replied: "You're probably right."
Speaking with reporters later at the White House, Scaramucci said there's obviously "a problem" between Trump and Sessions, but he declined to predict how it might play out.
What's more, it would be highly unusual for an administration to investigate its former opponent in an election. And it's extremely unusual for the request to come from a sitting president.
Many supporters of former president Barack Obama asked that he investigate the George W. Bush administration over allegations of torture; Obama declined.
The FBI did probe Clinton's use of private email during years as secretary of State and did not recommend charges. Trump himself said shortly after the election that he would not pursue legal action against Clinton.
In urging Sessions to take up an investigation of his political rival, Trump is not only crossing ethical boundaries but ignoring the attorney general’s pledge to the Senate to recuse himself from any matters involving Clinton.
Answering one of the first questions he fielded during his January confirmation hearing, Sessions said he would recuse himself from anything related to former Democratic presidential nominee, saying that his objectivity could be called into question because of his past statements about Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Some Republican lawmakers took a dim view of Trump's treatment of Sessions, and his apparent threat toward Clinton.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Trump's latest tweet "suggesting Attorney General Sessions pursue prosecution of a former political rival is highly inappropriate," and threatens "the long-standing American tradition of separating the law from politics regardless of party.”
A number of conservative commentators also took issue with Trump's attacks on his attorney general.
"What Trump is doing to Sessions must be unprecedented in the history of American government," tweeted Rich Lowry, editor of National Review magazine.
Trump's ire did not stop with Sessions, though – he also on Tuesday went after FBI official Andrew McCabe over his wife's political career; Jill McCabe ran for the Virginia State Senate and received political contributions from Clinton allies. McCabe served as acting FBI director after Trump fired James Comey in May.
In another post, Trump again attacked the Russia investigation while defending his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who denied involvement with Russia after meeting with Senate investigators.
"Jared Kushner did very well yesterday in proving he did not collude with the Russians," Trump tweeted. "Witch Hunt. Next up, 11 year old Barron Trump!"
Contributing: Kevin Johnson