President Donald Trump appeared to lack enthusiasm Thursday when he said his relationship with Attorney General Jeff Session is “fine”—after repeatedly expressing disappointment in the head of the Justice Department and even calling him “beleaguered.”
“It’s fine. It is what it is,” @POTUS says.
Trump’s recent negative tweets about Sessions—an Alabama Republican who was the first sitting U.S. senator to support Trump in the 2016 presidential race—prompted frustration and some anger among fellow conservatives.
Trump has said his disappointment stems from Sessions’ recusing himself from congressional and FBI investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Many conservatives continue to back the attorney general’s decision, since he was part of the Trump campaign. But eventually that move led to the Justice Department’s naming special counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, to lead an independent investigation.
Trump also complained in tweets about Sessions not investigating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent in last year’s election.
After a national security briefing Thursday at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, a reporter asked Trump about his relationship with the attorney general.
“It’s fine. It is what it is. It’s fine,” Trump said.
The president went on to give Sessions some credit for his work to enforce immigration law, go after criminal illegal immigrants, and combat the violent MS-13 gang.
“He’s working hard on the border. I’m very proud of what we’ve done on the border,” Trump said.
But then he shifted his praise to White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired Marine general who spent six months as secretary of homeland security.
“I’m very proud of General Kelly, what he’s done on the border,” Trump said. “One of the reasons he’s my chief of staff right now is because he did such an outstanding job at the border.”
The position of homeland security secretary is now vacant, with Kelly’s move to the White House last month.
In July tweets, Trump also blasted Sessions for not investigating leakers.
Sessions last week announced the Justice Department would aggressively investigate federal employees who leak classified information to reporters.
Trump joked Thursday about two types of leaks—politically motivated leaks that are not that serious and leaks of classified information from intelligence agencies:
You have the leaks coming out of intelligence and various departments having to do with Syria, having to do with all sorts of different places, having to do, frankly, with North Korea. And those are very serious.
And then you have the leaks where people want to love me and they’re all fighting for love. Those are not very important, but certainly we don’t like them. Those are little inner-White House leaks. They’re not very important. But, actually, I’m somewhat honored by them.
But the important leaks to me—and they’re leaks that the attorney general is looking at very strongly—are the leaks coming out of intelligence. And we have to stop them for the security and the national security of our country.