The Latest: Trump cranks up heat on Sessions

The Latest: Trump cranks up heat on Sessions

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (all times local):

7:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump is cranking up the heat on Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He is scorning him as "very weak" and refusing to say whether he'll fire the nation's top law enforcement officer and his onetime political ally. It was an extraordinary public rebuke, and even fellow Republicans pushed back forcefully. All through a day of anything-but-subtle tweets and statements, Trump rued his decision to choose Sessions for his Cabinet and left the former senator's future prospects dangling. He said: "We will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell."


3:33 p.m.

President Donald Trump says that he is "very disappointed" in Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Tuesday that he has not made up his mind as to whether to fire his longtime ally.

He told the newspaper he is "looking" at the possibility of firing the former Alabama senator and did not suggest that he will curtail his criticism of Sessions.

Trump also downplayed the importance of Sessions being the first senator to endorse his presidential candidacy, saying that "it's not like a great loyal thing."

Trump is angry that Sessions recused himself from the investigation into the relationship between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia. Officials say Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Sessions.


3:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump's pick for a top Justice Department position is defending Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe.

Brian Benczkowski, tapped to lead the department's criminal division, said during his Tuesday confirmation hearing that he did not know on what information Sessions based his recusal. But he says he has "every confidence he reviewed the facts, he applied the law, and he made the right decision for the department on that basis."

Trump last week delivered an excoriating rebuke of Sessions' recusal, saying he never would have hired him for attorney general if he had known he would step aside from the probe. Trump's criticism has only intensified since then.

Benczkowski says Trump's comments about Sessions are "difficult and painful for me to hear."


10:30 a.m.

Speaker Paul Ryan says President Donald Trump gets to decide his personnel. Ryan's comment came amid reports that the president has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Ryan told reporters on Tuesday that it's the prerogative of the president to decide who works for him and if the president has concerns he would talk to the individual.

Other Republicans, most notably Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, offered a strong defense of Sessions, saying Trump shouldn't base prosecutorial decisions on politics. Trump launched a fresh Twitter tirade Tuesday morning against Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse his candidacy.

Ryan repeatedly said it is up to the president on personnel decisions.


10:25 a.m.

Some Republican lawmakers are defending Attorney General Jeff Sessions against President Donald Trump's intensifying criticism.

Trump took to Twitter Tuesday to accuse the former senator and campaign ally of taking a "VERY weak" position at the Justice Department on "Hillary Clinton crimes."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham says the tweet "is highly inappropriate." He says prosecutorial decisions based on politics would "run away from the long-standing American tradition of separating the law from politics regardless of party."

And he calls Sessions "a rock-solid conservative, but above else he believes in the rule of law."

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican echoed the sentiment, writing on Twitter, "Mr. President, maybe just try a meeting? This is beneath the office - of any held office - from city councilman to POTUS."


9:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump's new communications director says it's "probably right" that Trump wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign.

Anthony Scaramucci, the Trump adviser, said in an interview Tuesday with radio host Hugh Hewitt that Trump is "obviously frustrated" and that the two men "need to work this thing out."

Scaramucci replies "you're probably right" when Hewitt says it's clear that Trump wants Sessions gone.

Trump is angry that Sessions recused himself from the investigation into the relationship between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia. Officials say Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Sessions. The president has also been pressuring Sessions on Twitter in recent days.

Trump recently told The New York Times he wouldn't have picked Sessions for the job had he known beforehand that Sessions would step aside from the investigation.


8 a.m.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the president's frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions hasn't gone away and "I don't think it will."

Sanders tells Fox News' "Fox & Friends" that President Donald Trump was "certainly frustrated and disappointed in the attorney general for recusing himself" from the ongoing Russia probe. A special counselor has been appointed to look into allegations that the Trump campaign worked with Moscow to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in last year's presidential election.

On Sessions, she said: "I think that's a decision that if the president wants to make, he certainly will and he's continuing to move forward and focus on other things. But that frustration certainly hasn't gone away. And I don't think it will."


6:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump is keeping up pressure on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, taking to Twitter at daybreak Tuesday to accuse the former senator and campaign ally and adviser of taking a "VERY weak" position at the Justice Department on "Hillary Clinton crimes."

In a post shortly after 6 a.m. EDT, the president also said: "Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign — quietly working to boost Clinton. So where is the investigation A.G." He also tweeted: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!"

The social network flares sent out from the White House followed a pattern that intensified earlier this month with Trump's harsh criticism of Sessions in an interview with The New York Times. Earlier, Trump referred to the attorney general in a tweet as "beleaguered." Trump has been angry that Sessions chose to recuse himself from the government's investigation of Russian meddling in last year's U.S. election.


3:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

The president's anger again bubbled into public view Monday as he referred to Sessions in a tweet as "beleaguered." Privately, Trump has speculated aloud to allies in recent days about the potential consequences of firing Sessions, according to three people who have recently spoken to the president. They demanded anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Trump often talks about making staff changes without following through, so those who have spoken with the president cautioned that a change may not be imminent or happen at all. What is clear is that Trump remains furious that the attorney general recused himself from the investigations.

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