Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has endured a rocky relationship with Donald Trump for months, has issued his strongest pushback yet against the president, saying in a statement Thursday that the Department of Justice “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
When asked whether he will “fire Sessions,” in an interview that aired on Fox News Thursday morning, Trump took aim at his attorney general, with whom he has waged both open and low-level warfare since Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe early last year.
“I said ‘What kind of a man is this?'” Trump said during the interview. The president also said Sessions failed to take control of the DOJ.
“The only reason I gave him the job — I felt loyalty.”
Sessions was scheduled to be at an early afternoon White House meeting with Trump and senior adviser Jared Kushner on prison reform.
Trump this week has taken several shots at the Justice Department under Sessions, who was one of Trump’s earliest supporters during the 2016 campaign, even putting quotation marks around the word “Justice” in a tweet.
In the statement from Sessions, the attorney general said that he “took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda.”
“While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” the statement read. “I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action.”
Thursday’s statement from Sessions was his most forceful and direct pushback against the president since March, when Trump rebuked Sessions for referring Republican accusations of government surveillance abuses to the Justice Department’s inspector general, rather than having the broader Justice Department investigate the matter.
“Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!” Trump tweeted at the time.
In response, Sessions issued a statement saying, “As long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.”