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Trump says he wishes he hadn’t picked Jeff Sessions as attorney general

Trump is still mad about the Russia investigation recusal.

Trump and Sessions at a March speech.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and first lady Melania Trump look on as President Donald Trump speaks at an event in Manchester, New Hampshire, in March 2018.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covered business and economics for Vox and wrote the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

President Donald Trump is having a case of buyer’s remorse with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He said on Twitter on Wednesday morning that he wishes he had picked someone else to head the Department of Justice in light of Sessions recusing himself from any matters related to the Russia investigation.

This is hardly the first time Trump has publicly attacked his attorney general. He has repeatedly criticized Sessions and the Department of Justice on Twitter and elsewhere, fueling rumors that he is about to fire Sessions or push him to resign.

On Wednesday, Trump started by quoting comments from Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) in an appearance on CBS’s This Morning. In the interview, host Nora O’Donnell asked Gowdy about a New York Times report late Tuesday that Trump objected to Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation in March 2017 and told him he should reverse his decision. O’Donnell asked Gowdy if this constituted obstruction of justice on the part of the president. (Sessions refused to reverse his decision.)

Gowdy’s response:

I don’t think so; I think what the president is doing is expressing frustration that Attorney General Sessions should have shared these reasons for recusal before he took the job, not afterward. If I were the president and I picked someone to be the country’s chief law enforcement officer, and they told me later, “Oh, by the way, I’m not going to be able to participate in the most important case in the office, “I would be frustrated too. And that’s how I read that — Sen. Sessions, why didn’t you tell me before I picked you? There are lots of really good lawyers in the country, he could have picked somebody else!

“And I wish I did!” Trump wrote on Twitter after quoting Gowdy.

This is the latest in a long line of presidential complaints about the attorney general. In July 2017, Trump tweeted that Sessions had taken a “VERY weak position” on crimes he alleged Hillary Clinton committed and asked why Sessions hadn’t replaced former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who briefly took over the post when James Comey was fired.

Trump publicly prodded Sessions to investigate Democrats and probe his conspiracy theories about abuses by the FBI and Obama administration. In private, he reportedly pressed Sessions to first Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two FBI officials who made derogatory comments about Trump in text messages during and after the 2016 election.

Trump reportedly calls Sessions “Mr. Magoo” and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “Mr. Peepers” in private.

The Times reported in September that Trump berated Sessions so much after special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed in May 2017 that Sessions tried to quit. He sent a resignation letter to the White House, which Trump ultimately rejected.

Despite their troubles, Trump has kept Sessions on, even if it appears there is no love lost between the pair. In April, Trump hit back at reports that he was considering replacing Sessions with Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, saying the story was not true.

What else Gowdy said in that interview: the FBI was right to look into what people close to Trump were talking about with Russia

In his tweets, Trump cherry-picked the part of Gowdy’s interview that was convenient to him — the Sessions comments — and left out a less convenient but also important tidbit: The South Carolina Congress member said the FBI was right to look into what Russia was doing in 2016, including its contacts with people in Trump’s orbit.

“When the FBI comes into contact with information about what a foreign government may be doing in our election cycle, I think they have an obligation to run it out,” Gowdy said.

Trump has repeatedly derided the FBI and Justice Department for their work in the Russia probe and in recent weeks has begun to propagate “Spygate,” a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration, FBI, and DOJ spied on his campaign for political purposes during the 2016 election.

“Based on what I have seen, I don’t know what the FBI could have done or should have done other than run out a lead that someone loosely connected with the campaign was making assertions about Russia,” Gowdy said. “I would think you would want the FBI to find out whether there was any validity to what those people were saying.”

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