Politics ESSENTIAL WASHINGTON

Here's our look at the Trump administration and the rest of Washington:

RussiaWhite House

White House says Trump actually does have confidence in Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, for now

President Trump still has confidence in Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s job is safe, at least for now, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Thursday.

“He was disappointed in Atty. Gen. Sessions’ decision to recuse himself" from the Justice Department investigation into potential collusion last year between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, Sanders said. "But clearly he has confidence in him or he would not be the attorney general.” 

That was unclear, however, after the scathing comments Trump made in an interview with the New York Times published late Wednesday. The president lashed out at the top leaders at the Justice Department and FBI, but especially at Sessions, provoking immediate speculation whether the attorney general would resign or be fired.

On Thursday, Sessions told reporters he would continue in his job as long as "appropriate." 

In the interview, Trump said he would not have picked Sessions, the former Alabama senator who was one of his earliest and closest supporters, had he known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Sessions' recusal early in the administration, which was widely praised at the time given his own previously undisclosed contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, began a series of developments that led to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel in May.

Trump also accused Mueller, a former FBI director, as well as others in his office and at the top of the Justice Department of having conflicts of interest. 

Sanders said that if Trump wanted Sessions to resign, he would not use hints.

“You know this president well enough to know that if he wanted somebody to take an action he would make that quite clear,” she said.

But in the case of Mueller, she did not back off Trump’s implied threat in the interview that the president could try to have him removed as special counsel should Mueller's investigation expand to encompass Trump's financial affairs. Sanders said only that his job is safe “at this time.”

“I can’t predict everything that could possibly take place in the future and what Mueller could potentially do,” she said.

Sanders fended off several questions about whether Trump was threatening Mueller or the independence of the investigation and of the Justice Department generally.

Asked whether the president believes Sessions serves him personally or is beholden to the Constitution, she said, "I think that’s kind of a 'both'.” she said.

“Obviously the attorney general’s job is to follow and uphold the Constitution, but also every member of the Cabinet and the administration serves at the pleasure of the president,” Sanders said.

Latest updates

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
59°