Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Sessions Is Said to Have Offered to Resign

Photo
Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April. On Tuesday, the White House declined to say whether President Trump still had confidence in him. CreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered to resign in recent weeks as he told President Trump he needed the freedom to do his job, according to two people who were briefed on the discussion.
The president turned down the offer, but on Tuesday, the White House declined to say whether Mr. Trump still had confidence in his attorney general.
“I have not had that discussion with him,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters, responding to questions about whether the president had soured on Mr. Sessions.
Mr. Spicer’s remarks came after The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump had vented intermittently about Mr. Sessions since the attorney general recused himself from any Russia-related investigations conducted by the Justice Department. Mr. Trump has fumed to allies and advisers ever since, suggesting that Mr. Sessions’s decision was needless.
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He has also blamed Mr. Sessions for the fallout from an executive order that the president signed for a travel ban on seven primarily Muslim countries, which courts have blocked.
The situation between Mr. Sessions and Mr. Trump has grown so tense that the attorney general told Mr. Trump in recent weeks that he needed the freedom to do his job and that he could resign if that was what was wanted, according to the two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House matters. Mr. Trump did not take him up on the offer.
One person familiar with the events, who asked not to be identified, said that the discussion in which Mr. Sessions offered to leave his job took place in the days leading up to Mr. Trump’s nine-day foreign trip last month.
A spokesman for Mr. Sessions declined to comment. A White House spokeswoman did not respond to an email seeking comment.
The frustration at times goes both ways. Mr. Sessions was upset in March when the president tapped Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to lead a task force on the opioids crisis without consulting the attorney general first, according to an administration official who asked not to be named discussing internal matters.
The offer by Mr. Sessions to discuss resigning, however lightly he made it, was surprising from one of the president’s earliest and most vocal supporters. Mr. Sessions’s former spokesman, Stephen Miller, is now Mr. Trump’s main speechwriter and a policy adviser.
But two people close to the president said Mr. Trump does not want to replace Mr. Sessions.
The president is said to be aware of the potential fallout of trying to get another attorney general through a confirmation hearing and that in the interim, he would be left with Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who recommended a special counsel for the Russia inquiry.

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