US President Donald Trump has said he never would have hired Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he had known the top law official would recuse himself from a probe into Russia’s alleged election meddling. In an interview with the New York Times yesterday, the president also criticised Sessions’ confirmation testimony in the US senate, in which Sessions denied “communications with the Russians” despite at least two meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign.
“Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers,” the president told the Times. “He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”
Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Russian probe in March after the Washington Post revealed the meetings with Kislyak. But Trump said Sessions had acted unfairly in taking the job in the first place if he had felt in any way compromised. “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,'” Trump said. “It’s extremely unfair – and that’s a mild word – to the president.”
In an appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, Sessions vehemently denied any collusion with Russia to tilt last year’s US election in Trump’s favor, branding the suggestion an “appalling and detestable lie.” He also engaged in testy exchanges with several senators who pressed him for details on his discussions with Trump – which he refused to provide in the name of confidentiality.
The interview comes as Trump reaches the six-month mark of his presidency, and amid reports that a senate panel next week will grill three of the pivotal players in his 2016 presidential campaign – including his eldest son – over allegations of the campaign’s collusion with Russia.