WASHINGTON — After days of digs at Attorney General Jeff Sessions that escalated into President Trump and the head of the DOJ not speaking, White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci this morning defended his boss using Twitter to rip one of his earliest supporters.
“Everybody’s got a personality differences and everybody has different style affects for their personality,” Scaramucci told CNN. “One of the things that I like about the president that some people in Washington perhaps don’t like about the president is the upfront-ness. If he’s unhappy with my job and he tweets out about me that he’s unhappy with my job and 113 million people hear that, I’m a pretty secure guy. I’m OK with that. I would go and talk to him and say, OK, can I improve this, can I make it better for you?”
Scaramucci called Trump “a symmetrical loyalist, for sure — if you take care of him, he’s going to take care of you.”
Sessions, the first Senate supporter of candidate Trump, was confirmed in February and recused himself from the Justice Department probe of Russia’s election influence operation and any potential ties to the Trump campaign in March, after it was disclosed that he met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during election season. In May, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, nominated by Trump in January and confirmed in April, appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel leading the Russia investigation.
Mueller has amassed a team of investigators that former special counsel Kenneth Starr, whose investigation of President Clinton led to his impeachment by the House, called “a great, great team of complete professionals.” The known lawyers on the team, with decades of FBI and DOJ experience, include experts in fraud cases, money laundering, organized crime, and cybersecurity, and their backgrounds include Watergate and the Enron trial. The special counsel’s wide berth was underscored in the Clinton investigation, when the president’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky was discovered.
A week ago, in sit-down interview with a trio of NYT reporters at the White House, Trump was asked if Mueller looking at his family finances would cross a “red line” of some sort: “I would say yes,” the president replied, calling it “a violation” as the probe is about Russia. The Guardian reported that Mueller’s team and Trump’s bank, Deutsche Bank, had already been in contact and the bank expects subpoenas or other information requests.
On the subject of his attorney general, Trump told the NYT: “Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president. 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.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”
Sessions told reporters Thursday he’s “totally confident that we can continue to run this office in an effective way” and is reportedly still not talking resignation after several days more of Trump shots.
Tweeted Trump on Tuesday: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”
Today, Trump added: “Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars ($700,000) for his wife’s political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!”
At a Tuesday press conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Trump was asked “whether you’ve lost confidence in Jeff Sessions, whether you want him to resign on his own, whether you’re prepared to fire him if he doesn’t, and why you’re sort of letting him twist in the wind rather than just making the call for him.”
“Well, I don’t think I am doing that, but I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have, quite simply, picked somebody else. So I think that’s a bad thing not for the president, but for the presidency. I think it’s unfair to the presidency. And that’s the way I feel,” Trump replied.
“I’m very disappointed with the attorney general, but we will see what happens,” he later added when pressed further. “Time will tell. Time will tell.”
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) warned that other Trump loyalists may find themselves similarly thrown under the bus and predicted the Sessions situation could affect how GOP members of Congress deal with him.
“Jeff Sessions stuck his neck out for this president, the only, the first senator to endorse him. And now look what the president is doing to him, chopping his head off,” Durbin told MSNBC. “You don’t inspire loyalty. It’s tough to get a call from the White House the next day, who says, hey, will you be on my side for the next political battle and run a political risk?”
During an interview this week with the Wall Street Journal, Trump said the crowd sizes at his rallies drew Sessions’ early endorsement.
“I had 40,000 people. He was a senator from Alabama … he looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ‘What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me,” Trump said. “So it’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement. But I’m very disappointed in Jeff Sessions.”
Durbin said “the most conservative Republican senators I have spoken to in private are disgusted by this.”
“They cannot believe that a man who gave up his Senate career to be a top official in this administration is being treated in such a shabby way,” he added. “…Loyalty is the coin of the realm in politics. If you’re not loyal to your friends, if you don’t stick with them through thick and thin, you don’t last very long around here. Your word is no good. And here we have the president, attacking the man who stuck his neck out for that president and his political campaign.”
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) emphasized to Fox News on Tuesday that he doesn’t think “personnel decisions are usually well resolved over Twitter.”
“I think the president’s frustration was not the recusal. I hope it wasn’t, because I don’t think Attorney General Sessions had a choice but to recuse himself. If the President is going to be frustrated, he should be frustrated by what led up to the recusal, which was Senator Sessions had a faulty memory,” Gowdy said, a reference to Sessions’ meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign.
“…But on the other hand, Attorney General Sessions may believe that he is doing the job in a way he is supposed to. He doesn’t work for the president. He works for a blindfolded woman holding a set of scales.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a floor speech this morning that “it seems clear the president’s intention is to make life unbearable for the attorney general, hoping to prompt his resignation.”
“All Americans should be wondering: why is the president publicly, publicly demeaning and humiliating such a close friend and supporter, a member of his own cabinet? They should wonder if the president is trying to pry open the office of attorney general to appoint someone during the August recess who will fire Special Counsel Mueller and shut down the Russia investigation,” Schumer said. “Let me say, if such a situation arises, Democrats would use every tool in our toolbox to stymie such a recess appointment.”