Jeff Sessions; Donald Trump (AP/Salon)

President Donald Trump scorches Jeff Sessions: “I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad."

The president just unleashed some of his harshest criticisms yet of the nation's top law enforcement official


Joseph Neese
September 19, 2018 2:54PM (UTC)

President Donald Trump just unleashed some of his harshest criticisms yet of Jeff Sessions, scorching him in an exclusive interview Tuesday with The Hill by declaring, "I don't have an attorney general."

"I’m very disappointed in Jeff," the president added. "Very disappointed."

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However, Trump stopped short of saying he would ultimately fire the nation's top law enforcement official. “We’ll see what happens – a lot of people have asked me to do that," he said. "And I guess I study history, and I say I just want to leave things alone. But it was very unfair what he did."

The "unfair" decision Trump references was Sessions' decision on March 2, 2017 to recuse himself from federal investigations into Russian meddling into the 2016 presidential election. The attorney general's move came after reports surfaced that he had twice met with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak – meetings which were not initially disclosed during his confirmation proceedings before the Senate – amid the tight race against Hillary Clinton. Then representing the state of Alabama, Sessions became the first member of the Senate to endorse Trump. He went on to campaign for the then-business mogul and was also appointed as the chairman of his National Security Advisory Committee.

“And my worst enemies – I mean, people that, you know, are on the other side of me in a lot of ways, including politically – have said that was a very unfair thing he did," Trump said Tuesday of Sessions' decision.

Although the president has publicly and repeatedly admonished Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe, Trump suggested Wednesday that his attorney general "was essentially AWOL and performing badly on a variety of issues" beyond that decision, according to The Hill.

The president, who is known to value loyalty above all else, further suggested that his penchant for the trait possibly caused him to err in choosing Sessions to head the Department of Justice. “I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions, because he came to me. He was the first Senator that endorsed me," Trump said. "And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it."

Trump, who has boasted that his own IQ "is one of the highest" and bragged about his ability to "hire the best people," then went on to question the intelligence of his Cabinet-level hire. “He went through the nominating process and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused," the president said Tuesday. "And people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers. Answers that should have been easily answered.”

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In the past, Trump has also reportedly attacked Sessions' smarts by attacking his Southern draw. “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner," Bob Woodward quoted the president as saying in his book "Fear: Trump in the White House." ". . . He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”

Woodward also reported that Trump considered Sessions a "traitor" for his refusal to interject himself into special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. However, the president vehemently denied the allegations.

"The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions 'mentally retarded' and 'a dumb southerner,'” the president tweeted. "I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing. He made this up to divide!"

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Joseph Neese

Joseph Neese is the Managing Editor of Salon. You can follow him on Twitter: @josephneese.

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