After Attorney General Jeff Sessions was publicly attacked by President Donald Trump on Twitter for not investigating Hillary Clinton, it looked like Sessions was about to resign or be fired. However, new White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly reportedly called Sesisons to let him know his job is safe.
On August 2, ABC News, The Associated Press and other media outlets reported that Kelly told Sessions his job is secure.
The relationship between Sessions and Trump nosedived after Sessions recused himself from any matters related to the Russia investigation in March. It was a surprising turn of events, since Sessions had been one of Trump’s first mainstream political supporters and was the first sitting Senator to endorse Trump during the primary campaign. Sessions was an advisor during the campaign and was Trump’s first cabinet appointment after his November victory. The former Alabama Senator also had a long career in justice before being elected to the Senate, having served as Alabama’s Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama during three administrations.
Here’s a look at Sessions’ relationship with the president.
1. Trump Told the New York Times He Wouldn’t Have Hired Sessions If He Knew Sessions Would Recuse Himself
In his July 19 interview with the New York Times, Trump confirmed reports that he was not happy with Sessions’ decision in March to recuse himself from matters related to the Russia investigation. Sessions’ move came a day after The Washington Post reported that Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice before the election, even though he said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he did not have “communications with the Russians.”
Trump told the Times that the decision was “very unfair to the president.”
“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump told the Times.
The day after Trump’s comments, Sessions told the Associated Press that he didn’t plan on resigning and he has loved the job.
“I have the honor of serving as attorney general. It’s something that goes beyond any thought I would have ever had for myself,” Sessions said. “We love this job, we love this department and I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate.”
2. Trump Attacked Sessions as ‘Beleaguered’ & ‘Very Weak’ on Hillary Clinton ‘Crimes’
Trump took the gloves off on Twitter, making his frustrations with Sessions public. On July 24, Trump called Sessions “beleaguered” on Twitter, asking why Sessions wasn’t “looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?”
He followed that up on July 25, writing, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”
Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House Communications Director, told radio host Hugh Hewitt that Trump is “obviously frustrated” with Sessions. He said he told CNN’s Sarah Murray that he thinks Sessions and Trump “could get together,” but he doesn’t think Trump wants to do that. Scaramucci said he thinks Sessions and Trump “need to work this thing out.”
“I have enormous amount, I have an enormous amount of respect for the Attorney General, but I do know the President pretty well,” Scaramucci told Hewitt. “And if there’s this level of tension in the relationship, that that’s public, you’re probably right. But I don’t want to speak for the President on that, because he’s a cabinet official. And I sort of think that has to be between the president of the United States and the cabinet official.”
3. Sessions Reportedly Offered to Resign in June
On June 5, The New York Times first reported that Trump was growing angry with Sessions. According to the Times’ sources, Trump believes that Sessions’ recusal ultimately led to former FBI Director Robert Mueller being hired as a special counsel to handle the investigation into possible ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign, as well as Russia’s meddling in the election.
A day after that report, ABC News reported that Sessions offered to resign “in recent weeks.”
The Post also reported that Trump refused Sessions’ offer.
When then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked if Trump still had confidence in Sessions, Spicer couldn’t say. “I said I have not had a discussion with him on the question. I don’t, If I haven’t had a discussion about a subject, I tend not to speak about it,” Spicer said during a press briefing.
4. Trump Attacked Sessions’ Justice Department for Writing a ‘Politically Correct’ & ‘Watered-Down’ Version of his Travel Ban
In March, Trump signed an amended version of his immigration executive order after the first version was stalled by court orders. In a series of Tweets on June 5, two days after the London Bridge terror attack, Trump complained that the new version he signed himself wasn’t as strict as it should have been.
“The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.,” Trump wrote, referring to the Supreme Court. “That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people.”
In another tweet, Trump added, “The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court – & seek much tougher version!”
However, it was the revised version of the travel ban that partially went into effect after The Supreme Court rejected lower court rulings blocking it. People from six Muslim-majority countries – Syria, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and Libya – are still barred from entering the U.S. However, the court did allow an exception for people with “bona fide relationships” in the U.S. Green card holders, students and workers with visas and some refugees are also allowed into the U.S.
But throughout his tenure as Attorney General, Sessions made it clear that he supported Trump’s hardline approach to immigration.
“For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned. This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” Sessions said in an April visit to Arizona. “The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws and the catch-and-release practices of old are over.”
5. Sessions Was the First Sitting Senator to Endorse Trump During the 2016 Campaign
What makes the souring of Trump’s relationship with Sessions all the more surprising is that Sessions was the first mainstream politician and sitting Senator to endorse Trump. As Politico reported in February, Sessions formally endorsed Trump at a Madison, Alabama rally.
At the rally, Sessions told the crowd, “I told Donald Trump this isn’t a campaign, this is a movement. Look at what’s happening. The American people are not happy with their government.”
Sessions’ endorsement was seen as a key victory for Trump, giving him grassroots support in the South. He eventually won Alabama with 62.9 percent of the vote in the general election.
During the campaign, Sessions was a key advisor for Trump. He chaired his national security advisory committee and helped put together his immigration platform, notes the Washington Post. Trump’s speechwriter Stephen Miller was also a longtime Sessions advisor.
In an Wall Street Journal interview on July 25, Trump downplayed the importance of Sessions’ endorsement. “It’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement,” Trump said. “I’m very disappointed in Jeff Sessions.”