WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday heaped more public criticism on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calling his job performance “very weak” and offering an ambiguous “time will tell” when asked about Sessions’ future with the administration.
In the morning, Trump tweeted, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are Emails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”
Later, The Wall Street Journal asked him how long he could continue lashing Sessions without ousting him.
“I’m just looking at it,” Trump said. “I’ll just see. It’s a very important thing.”
At a Rose Garden news conference Tuesday afternoon, Trump would not say if he thought Sessions — one of his earliest campaign supporters — should stay on, resign or be fired.
“I told you before I’m very disappointed with the attorney general, but we will see what happens,” Trump said. “Time will tell. Time will tell.”
Sessions said last Thursday that he had no plans to resign and would serve as long as is “appropriate.”
Trump took his displeasure with Sessions public last Wednesday, telling The New York Times that he regretted appointing an attorney general who would ultimately recuse himself from probes into Russian meddling in last year’s election.
Trump’s tweet Tuesday spurred GOP lawmakers to the defense of Sessions, a former senator.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement that suggesting that Sessions “pursue prosecution of a former political rival is highly inappropriate. Prosecutorial decisions should be based on applying facts to the law without hint of political motivation.”
Graham commended Sessions for understanding “we are a nation of laws, not men.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) called Sessions “a man of deep conviction and principle who believes in the rule of law.”
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, told reporters Trump “feels frustrated by the recusal and certainly feels victimized by the Russia investigation.”
Asked what she would do if she were in Sessions’ shoes, she said, “I would speak directly to the president, ask him if he’d like me to serve. ‘Would you like me to continue?’”
Newly appointed communications director Anthony Scaramucci said he didn’t know if Trump and Sessions had spoken in the past 24 hours. Sessions was at the White House on Monday but did not meet with Trump.
“You have to look at the tweets and let the tweets stand for themselves, that the president wants his Cabinet secretaries to have his back,” Scaramucci told reporters. “There’s obviously an issue in the relationship ... But we’ll get to a resolution shortly.”
Scaramucci separately said he is purging leakers from the press office and other parts of the White House.
Senior assistant press secretary Michael Short resigned Tuesday following reports that Scaramucci was preparing to oust him.