Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Fox News on Thursday that he was hurt by President Donald Trump’s recent remarks criticizing his job performance.
Trump has hurled a series of criticisms at Sessions since July 19, when he granted The New York Times an interview and bashed the former Alabama senator for his decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian hacking related to the 2016 election.
“Well, it kind of is hurtful,” Sessions told Tucker Carlson for “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on the Fox News Channel. “But the president of the United States is a strong leader. He is determined to move this country in the direction he believes it needs to go to make us great again. And he’s had a lot of criticisms, and he’s steadfastly determined to get his job done, and he wants all of us to do our jobs, and that’s what I intend to do.”
Carlson pressed Sessions on the main point of contention: Sessions’ recusal in March 2017. Sessions cited Department of Justice guidelines that suggest a recusal if the attorney had campaign connections. Sessions worked on Trump’s campaign, and was the first senator to endorse Trump.
Sessions said he felt he made the right call.
But Sessions pivoted quickly as to why he should stay on, if Trump chooses to let the attorney general keep working.
“I can feel the movement,” said Sessions, becoming relatively animated for the usually staid man from Mobile, Alabama.”We have a 25 percent increase in prosecution of criminals with guns just this last quarter … Prosecutions are going to be up. Production is going to be up, with no new resources, not a single new U.S. attorney on board.”
Sessions said he and the president share a common interest in cracking down on illegal immigration, in which he said he seen a 50 percent reduction in numbers since Trump took over as president.
Sessions gave the interview in El Salvador, where Sessions was appearing to talk up the Trump administration’s efforts against the violent gang, MS-13, which has roots in the Central American country.
Carlson also asked about where Sessions is on leaks. The criminal investigation into leaks of intelligence leaks is a topic dear to the heart of Trump and the White House, and Trump has made clear on Twitter he wants Sessions to track down the leakers.
Many of the leaks have been designed to embarrass Trump, or have attempted to make connections of Trump associates to Russians.
“I have not been happy with past prosecutions … of criminals leaks,” said Sessions. “We’ll have a press conference next week about it. We have already multiple numbers of prosecutions compared to last year. We are stepping up those cases. Some people need to go to jail.”
Sessions said Trump has every right to pressure him to step up the crackdown on criminal leaks.