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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Trump launches fresh attacks on his attorney general

US president blames Jeff Sessions for investigations of close aides 

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and First Lady Melania Trump applaud as US President Donald Trump speaks. AFP
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and First Lady Melania Trump applaud as US President Donald Trump speaks. AFP

US President Donald Trump escalated his long-running feud with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday, pressing him to investigate those who are probing his administration.

Responding to Mr Sessions' declaration that he would not be influenced by politics, Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Sessions must "look into all of the corruption on the 'other side,'" adding: "Come on Jeff, you can do it, the country is waiting!"

The president's tweets marked the second day of highly public criticism by the US president of his attorney general.

Earlier this week, Mr Trump, concerned by the legal downfall of two former advisers, accused Mr Sessions of failing to take control of the Justice Department. Mr Sessions responded on Thursday, saying that he and his department "will not be improperly influenced by political considerations".

The president's anger with Mr Sessions boiled over in an interview with Fox News in which the president also expressed frustration with the plea agreement his one-time legal fixer Michael Cohen cut with prosecutors, implicating Mr Trump in a crime that Mr Cohen admitted. He said it might be better if "flipping" — cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for more favourable treatment — were illegal because people co-operating with the government "just make up lies" to get concessions from prosecutors.

Mr Trump also addressed the five-year sentence given to a former government contractor convicted of mailing a classified US report to a news organisation. This was "small potatoes" compared with "what Hillary Clinton did", he tweeted, referring to his Democratic presidential rival.

Prosecutors say the sentence handed down to 26-year-old Reality Winner the longest imposed for a federal crime involving leaks to the media.

Earlier Mr Trump defended himself on Fox against talk of impeachment — "the market would crash ... everybody would be very poor" — tried to dissociate himself from Cohen and repeated his claim that he did not known in advance about Cohen's hush money payments to silence women alleging sexual relationships with the celebrity businessman.

Mr Trump's latest criticisms of law enforcement came as he appeared increasingly vulnerable to long-running investigations after this week's one-two punch of Cohen's plea deal and the conviction of his former campaign chair Paul Manafort.

Mr Trump has spent more than a year publicly and privately venting over Mr Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the federal investigation into collusion with Russia because he had worked on the Trump campaign.

Mr Trump, who blames that decision for the eventual appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, told Fox and Friends host Ainsley Earhardt that Mr Sessions "never took control of the Justice Department and it's a sort of an incredible thing".

"What kind of man is this?" he asked.

"You know the only reason I gave him the job? Because I felt loyalty, he was an original supporter."

Mr Sessions, an Alabama Republican, was the first senator to endorse Mr Trump's bid.

The attorney general has made clear to associates that he has no intention of leaving his job voluntarily despite Mr Trump's constant criticism. But his tone in his statement on Thursday made clear he is tired of the president's attacks.

"I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President's agenda," he said. He said that while he is attorney general the department "will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action."

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Read more:

National Enquirer executives granted US immunity in Michael Cohen probe

Trump insists he did no wrong after aides convicted

Trump’s longtime fixer admits he paid hush money to women on president’s behalf

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