WASHINGTON- President Donald Trump said advanced knowledge of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse to himself from DOJ’s investigation into potential collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials would have resulted in the selection of a different candidate to lead the department.
“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 New York Times in an exclusive interview Wednesday.
Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe in March following reports that he had twice met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak while a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sessions last month told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the Kislyak meetings were strict informal and said any suggestion that he colluded with Russian officials is a “detestable lie.”
Sessions testified that having served as an informal adviser to the Trump campaign he was required by DOJ regulations to recuse himself from the probe.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein took charge of the investigation following Sessions recusal. Rosenstein in May appointed Robert Muller III to serve as Independent Counsel following several days of intense bipartisan criticism that ensued following Trump’s decision to fire then-FBI director James Comey.
Trump on Wednesday told The New York Times that he was skeptical of Muller’s ability to conduct an impartial investigation because the Bush 43′ former FBI director worked in a law firm that is said to employ many attorneys who supported Hillary Clinton.
Trump told The Times that he also was skeptical of Rosenstein’s political loyalty because the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland worked in Baltimore.
Rosenstein, like Muller, was at that time an appointee of President George W. Bush.
Sessions on Thursday pushed back against suggestions that Trump’s comments might cause him to reconsider staying on as Attorney General.
“We love this job. We love this department, and I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate,” he said at a news conference.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told TMN Thursday that he believes Trump’s comments undermine public trust in the Attorney General.
“It makes it very difficult for him to execute his office,” he said.