Attorney General Jeff Sessions dodged questions Tuesday over whether President Donald Trump has pressured him to resign amid Trump’s relentless criticism during his tenure leading the Justice Department.
Sessions acknowledged that Trump has been “frustrated with him,” but said he is “honored” to head the Justice Department and “will do so as long as appropriate for me to do so.”
“The President speaks his mind. He says what’s on his mind at the time. And he’s been frustrated about my recusal and other matters. But we have been so pleased and honored to be given the responsibility to execute his agenda at the Department of Justice,” Sessions said.
Trump has repeatedly criticized Sessions for his decision to recuse himself from investigations related to the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, which include the special counsel probe into Russian interference in the election.
Instead, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which is looking into any potential ties between Trump campaign associates and the Kremlin. Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion.
In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Trump voiced frustration with Sessions over the Mueller investigation, saying, “I can fire him whenever I want to fire him.”
Sessions’ comments Tuesday came at a news conference about going after a Mexican drug cartel, where he was also asked for his reaction to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi “and what that says about freedom of the press internationally.”
Seemingly addressing both Khashoggi and danger for journalists globally — including those killed in Mexico — Sessions said the trend is “unacceptable” and defended the need for journalists to be able to do their jobs.
“It is a big deal. It is an unacceptable trend,” Sessions said.
“The world will be diminished if journalists aren’t able to go and travel and to report honestly conditions in differing countries. Or people in their own country can’t report on corruption or crime or misconduct in their countries. So I think it can even separate countries from a civilized community,” he continued, adding that he and the President feel “strongly” about it.
On Tuesday, CNN reported that Khashoggi’s body had been cut into pieces after he had been killed two weeks ago at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, according to a Turkish official.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, disappeared after he entered the consulate to get marriage papers, which has sparked global questioning of the Saudi government.
Sessions also noted the number of journalists who have been killed in Mexico: “Mexico may have had in the last several years the greatest number of attacks on journalists and murders of journalists. I’m not sure — probably the world has not reacted sufficiently to it.”