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Trump criticizes Sessions and vents frustration at Russia investigation and leaders of the Justice Department and FBI

 (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

President Trump expressed regret for hiring Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, saying it was "very unfair" that he recused himself from the investigation into Russia's election meddling, and left open the possibility of seeking the firing of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Trump made the remarks in an interview with the New York Times.

The interview featured an array of complaints against Justice Department leaders and the investigation into potential collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

Trump's criticism of Sessions was especially striking because the former Alabama senator was one of Trump's earliest and most loyal campaign advisors. His comments also amounted to an attack on the independence of the Justice Department and the FBI.

“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,” Trump told the Times.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the remarks.

In the interview, Trump also criticized James B. Comey, the former FBI director he fired in May; Andrew McCabe, the acting FBI director; and Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, the No. 2 official at the Justice Department.

Of Mueller, a former longtime FBI director, Trump complained that he and others in the special counsel's office had conflicts of interest. After Comey was fired, Trump said he spoke with Mueller about once again heading the FBI.

“He was up here and he wanted the job” of FBI director, Trump complained to the Times.

“I said, ‘What the hell is this all about?’" after learning that Mueller was named to lead the Russia investigation, Trump said. "Talk about conflicts. But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”

The Times said Trump did not say whether he would order Mueller to be fired by the Justice Department. But the interview underscored Trump's continuing exasperation with the investigation into his circle's ties to Russia.

Trump told the Times that it would be a "violation" and a crossing of a line if Mueller's investigation expanded to include his family's financial issues.

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