As Russia Net Closes, Trump Turns Against His Attorney General

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Donald Trump talks with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, May 2017 (Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump: Sessions was “extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the President”


Developments on Day 181 of the Trump Administration:

Concerned Trump Attacks Sessions, Fumes About Special Counsel

Worried about a Trump-Russia investigation closing on him, Donald Trump denounces Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In a 50-minute interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Trump said of Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation in early March, forced by the Attorney General’s evasive answers over his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in 2016:

Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the President. 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.” It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the President.

He added, for the first time, his disgruntlement with Sessions’ testimony during Senate confirmation hearings, when the Attorney General failed to reveal the Kislyak encounters: “Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers. He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”

The assault on Sessions was part of Trump’s main concern about the expanding inquiry by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Showing his frustration that he cannot fire Mueller, appointed after Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey in May in a failed attempt to curb the investigation, the President alleged that Mueller’s team, including 15 attorneys, is compromised by conflicts of interest.

Trump specifically warned Mueller not to look at the Trump family’s finances: “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”

Both Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. — who arranged a June 2016 meeting with Kremlin-linked envoys to discuss material that could damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — have business ties to Russians, including the real estate tycoon Aras Agalarov who was the broker for the Trump Jr. discussion. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner may have discussed a loan of hundreds of millions of dollars for a troubled Manhattan project with a Kremlin-connected banker in December 2016.

Trump never said he would order the Justice Department to fire Mueller, and did not outline circumstances under which he might do so. But he left open the possibility.

Defying reports that Mueller is now looking specifically at him, including obstruction of justice with Trump’s request of Comey to drop the investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, the President insisted: “I don’t think we’re under investigation. I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Trump also went after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is now heading the investigation for the Justice Department. He said he was irritated to learn that Rosenstein is from Baltimore because “there are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any”.

Trump: Trump Jr.-Russia Meeting About “Adoptions”

Trump also addressed the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with the three Kremlin-linked envoys and Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Kushner, and campaign manager Paul Manafort.

He tried the now-discredited line that the discussion was only about “adoptions”, saying he had mentioned the issue to Russian leader Vladimir Putin on July 7 in their two meetings — the second of which was only disclosed this week — at the G20 summit.

The “adoptions” reference is to Putin’s retaliation, blocking the adoption of Russian children by US parents, after Congress passed the Magnitsky Act sanctioning Russian human rights abuses.

Trump Jr. tried the same line on July 8, after the first revelations of the Trump Tower meeting. However, his e-mails subsequently confirmed that he was expecting — and welcoming — the Russian presentation of anti-Clinton material.

Trump’s Latest Allegation v. ex-FBI Director Comey

Continuing his angry campaign against the dismissed Comey, Trump alleged that the former FBI director had tried to exert leverage over him two weeks before the inauguration, in the first private conversation between the two men.

Trump cited Comey’s disclosure of a dossier, compiled by a former British intelligence officers, setting out evidence and testimony of financial and personal issues around the Russia connections of the President-elect and his closest advisors.

Comey explained at a Senate committee hearing in May that he briefed Trump because the dossier was likely to soon become public knowledge — which transpired within days of the conversation.

However, Trump maintained yesterday that Comey “shared it so that I would think he had it out there”. Asked if this was for leverage, Trump said, “I think so. In retrospect.”

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