- REUTERS/Mike Segar
President Donald Trump’s top aides have been trying to calm Trump down about Jeff Sessions, the attorney general Trump has been needling for nearly a week, according to officials cited in a New York Times report Wednesday.
Senior White House officials, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon, and counsel Don McGahn, have reportedly tried to direct Trump’s attacks away from Sessions because of concerns they would alienate the administration’s conservative base.
Sessions, who served in the US Senate for 20 years representing Alabama, is viewed as a champion of the modern-day conservative movement. Sessions and Bannon, both early supporters of Trump during his 2016 run, were even seen as the orchestrators of the campaign during its nascency, when it lacked a coherent message for its voters.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called Trump’s statements on Sessions “highly inappropriate” and said the situation “says more about President Trump than it does Attorney General Sessions, and to me, it’s a sign of great weakness on the part of President Trump.”
“I hope Jeff Sessions doesn’t give in to this humiliation campaign,” Graham said in The Times.
Breitbart, a conservative news outlet once led by Bannon, published several articles highlighting “Trump’s own hypocrisy” and the likelihood “to fuel concerns from his base.”
Trump began his public campaign against Sessions following an interview with The Times last week in which he expressed disappointment that Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.
“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” Trump said. “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 then launched a multiday campaign against Sessions on Twitter, where he referred to Sessions as “beleaguered” and criticized his decisions at the Justice Department.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
The latest Times report said Trump had not talked to Sessions since commenting about him to The Times.
“He’s obviously disappointed but also wants the attorney general to continue to focus on the things that the attorney general does,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said of Trump. “He wants him to lead the Department of Justice. He wants to do that strongly.”