Washington: Attorney General Jeff Sessions punched back hard at President Donald Trump's latest criticism as their long-running rift exploded into a public smackdown. Trump, concerned by the legal downfall of two former advisers, accused Sessions of failing to take control of the Justice Department, leading Sessions to declare on Thursday that he and his department "will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."
Trump's anger with Sessions boiled over in an interview with Fox News in which the president also expressed frustration with the plea agreement his onetime legal "fixer" Michael Cohen cut with prosecutors, including implicating Trump in a crime that Cohen admitted.
Trump said it might be better if "flipping" — cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for more favourable treatment— were illegal because people cooperating with the government "just make up lies" to get favourable treatment.
In the wide-ranging interview, Trump also defended himself against talk of impeachment — "the market would crash ... everybody would be very poor" — tried to distance himself from Cohen — "I would see him sometimes" — and said anew that he hadn't known in advance about Cohen's hush money payments to silence women alleging sexual relationships with the celebrity businessman.
Trump's latest shots against law enforcement came as he appeared increasingly vulnerable to long-running investigations after this week's one-two punch of Cohen's plea deal and the conviction of Trump's former campaign chair Paul Manafort.
Trump has spent more than a year publicly and privately venting over Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the federal Russia-collusion investigation because he'd worked on Trump's campaign.
Trump, who blames that decision for the eventual appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, told 'Fox and Friends' host Ainsley Earhardt that Sessions "never took control of the Justice Department and it's a sort of an incredible thing." "What kind of man is this?" Trump asked. "You know the only reason I gave him the job? Because I felt loyalty, he was an original supporter," Trump said of Sessions, an Alabama Republican who was the first senator to endorse Trump's bid.
Sessions has made clear to associates that he has no intention of leaving his job voluntarily despite Trump's constant criticism. But his tone in his statement on Thursday made clear he is tired of the president's attacks. "I 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." He then declared, that while he's attorney general the actions of the department "will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action."
In New York, meanwhile, it was reported that federal prosecutors have granted immunity to David Pecker, the publisher of National Enquirer, which bought and killed the stories of two women. People familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that the publication kept a safe containing documents on hush money payments and other damaging stories it killed as part of its cosy relationship with Trump leading up to 2016 election.
In awkward schedule timing, Sessions met later Thursday with the president on prison and sentencing reform at the White House. But two people familiar with their meeting said the dispute was not discussed. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the private conversation. Sessions has generally absorbed the Trump's blows without responding, though he has occasionally pushed back.
Updated Date: Aug 24, 2018 12:14 PM