Sessions Answers Angry Trump Criticism: I Will Serve As Long As It Is ‘Appropriate’

Attorney General Jeff Sessions accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, left, speaks at a news conference to announce an international cybercrime enforcement action at the Department of Justice, Thursday, July 20, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Andrew Harnik/AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions responded on Thursday to President Donald Trump’s harsh criticism of him in an interview with the New York Times.

Trump told the Times on Wednesday that he was upset Sessions had recused himself from matters involving Russia or the 2016 presidential campaign, after it was revealed Sessions incorrectly said he had not met with Russians during the campaign (he met multiple times with Russia’s ambassador to the United States).

Trump told the Times the recusal was “very unfair to the President” and that he wouldn’t have hired Sessions if he’d known he would recuse himself.

“Given what he said,” one reporter asked sessions at a press conference Thursday, referring to Trump, “what is your reaction to those remarks? And how seriously are you considering possibly resigning?”

“We, in this Department of Justice, will continue every single day to work hard to serve the national interest and we whole heartedly join in the priorities of President Trump,” Sessions responded. “He gave us several directives. One is to dismantle transnational criminal organizations. That’s what we are announcing today. The dismantling of the largest, dark website in the world by far. I congratulate our people for that.”

The press conference had been called to announce a law enforcement action against AlphaBay, a large marketplace on the “dark web,” where users and merchants use encryption technology to make anonymous transactions, including illicit ones.

“I have the honor of serving as attorney general,” Sessions continued. “It’s something that goes beyond any thought I would have ever had for myself. We love this job. We love this department. And I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate. 

We are serving right now, the work we are doing today is the kind of work that we intend to continue,” he added in response to another question, before listing the department’s recent achievements.

Sessions said he is “totally confident that we can continue to run this office in an effective way.”

A reporter asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about Trump’s comment, referring to him, that “there are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any.”

Rosenstein mostly ignored the question, saying he would answer questions about the AlphaBay case if any reporter had them.

No one did. The law enforcement officials began to walk off the podium.

A reporter asked Sessions a stinging question as they left, which would hang in the air unanswered: “Are you concerned you’ll be seen as a zombie attorney general?”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

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