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Under fire from Trump, Sessions should 'stay focused' on his job, White House says

 (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

In spite of a daily barrage of Twitter attacks from President Trump, the White House press secretary said Wednesday that Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions should “stay focused” on performing his duties as the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

“You can be disappointed in someone and still want someone to continue to do their job,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday, hours after Trump criticized Sessions for the third straight day – this time for not replacing acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

Sessions was one of Trump’s earliest and most loyal supporters, but the relationship has turned icy as Trump continues to seethe about Sessions’ decision to step aside from supervising the investigation into alleged Russian interference with last year’s election.

Sessions was at the White House for meetings Wednesday, the second time this week he’s visited the West Wing, but once again did not see Trump, Sanders said.

Sanders did not clear up the main question surrounding Trump’s strategy of publicly battering the attorney general: If the president is so unhappy, why doesn’t he simply fire Sessions?

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Wednesday that Trump’s apparent attempt to humiliate Sessions into quitting was “a sign of weakness.”

 “To me, weakness is when you play around the edges, and you don’t use the power you have,” Graham said in an interview on CNN.

Sanders said that Trump wants Sessions to continue to “lead the Department of Justice.”

“He wants him to focus on things like immigration, leaks and a number of other issues,” she said. One of Trump’s public complaints has been that Sessions hasn’t been aggressive enough in pursuing leakers of classified information.

In fact, the Justice Department is expected to announce next week some leak prosecutions.

On Tuesday, Sessions also announced new measures to cut off some federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities that don’t cooperate with immigration enforcement, another favorite issue for the president.

But Sanders added that, at this point, a leak investigation would not salvage Sessions’ standing with Trump.

“I don't think that's the nature of the relationship,” she said.

In two tweets Wednesday morning, Trump criticized Sessions for not replacing McCabe, whose wife ran for office as a Democrat in Virginia in 2015. He suggested that McCabe had a conflict of interest in his duties as deputy director of the FBI during the investigation of Hillary Clinton's handling of classified emails as secretary of State, although McCabe did not move into that job until months after his wife's campaign was over.

McCabe took over the bureau as acting director when Trump fired James B. Comey in May.

Sanders also declined to answer a question on why Trump did not fire McCabe himself, saying only that Trump looked forward to seeing his nominee as FBI director, Christopher Wray, be confirmed by the Senate soon.

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