Trump in war of words with Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Sessions earlier pushed back against Trump, who blamed him for what he called corruption in the justice department.

    Sessions drew Trump's ire when he recused himself in March 2017 from issues involving the 2016 White House race [AFP]
    Sessions drew Trump's ire when he recused himself in March 2017 from issues involving the 2016 White House race [AFP]

    US President Donald Trump has continued to engage in a public spat with his own top law enforcer, Jeff Sessions, accusing him of being "unfair" for applying "double standard" in prosecuting suspects.

    In a Friday morning rant on social media, Trump complained that a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor is getting 63 months in jail over "classified information". 

    "Gee, this is 'small potatoes compared to what Hillary Clinton did! So unfair Jeff, Double Standard," the US president wrote, naming his Democrat opponent in the 2016 presidential election.

    Trump then enumerated a list of items, which he suggested Sessions, the US attorney general, should look into.

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    "Open up the papers & documents without redaction? Come on Jeff, you can do it, the country is waiting!"

    In another post, Trump said that the justice department "will not be improperly influenced by political considerations", then went on to press Sessions to "look into all of the corruption on the 'other side'". 

    On Thursday, Sessions defended the integrity of his office, issuing a rare public rebuke to Trump's criticism that he had failed to take control of the justice department.   

    "I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in," he said. "While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."

    On Thursday, Trump told Fox News cable channel that Sessions should be blamed him for what he called corruption at the Department of Justice.

    "I put in an attorney general who never took control of the Justice Department," Trump told Fox.

    Trump made the statement following the conviction of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on multiple fraud counts and a plea deal struck by his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who implicated him in the case.

    Sessions, a longtime US senator and early supporter of Trump's presidential bid, drew the president's ire when he recused himself in March 2017 from issues involving the 2016 White House race.

    That removed him from oversight of the federal special counsel's investigation of Russia's role in the election and whether Trump's campaign worked with Moscow to influence the vote. Trump has repeatedly called the investigation a witch-hunt and maintained there was no collusion. 

    Trump told Fox that Sessions should not have recused himself from Russia-related matters. 

    "He took the job and then he said, 'I'm going to recuse myself,'" Trump said. "I said, 'What kind of a man is this?'"

    However, Trump told "Fox & Friends" he would "stay uninvolved" in department matters.

    Sessions, a longtime US senator and early supporter of Trump's presidential bid [File: Reuters]

    Al Jazeera's Heidi Zhou-Castro, reporting from Washington, DC, said that Trump has "long held over Sessions's head this final option of firing Sessions, which the president has absolute power to do". 

    She added, however, that "getting rid of Sessions may not end the Russia investigation and would certainly increase this political firestorm surrounding the president this week". 

    Political problems deepen

    In the Fox interview, Trump also said that he respected Manafort for the work he had done for prominent Republican politicians, adding that "some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does". 

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    The former Trump campaign chairman was found guilty on Tuesday of eight financial crimes, including tax evasion and bank fraud. The charges stemmed from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 

    Tuesday's verdict came as Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign-finance violations and other charges, saying he made payments to influence the 2016 election at the direction of a candidate for federal office. 

    Trump said Manafort and Cohen were charged with matters unrelated to his presidential campaign, although Cohen implicated Trump, saying he had paid sums of $130,000 and $150,000 each to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump, acting at his boss's request, in a bid to buy their silence "with the purpose of influencing the election". 

    Cohen did not name Trump on Tuesday, but said one payment was made "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office", and the other was made "under direction of the same candidate".

    Asked if he directed Cohen to make the payments, Trump said only that Cohen made both deals. He attacked Cohen, who once said he would "take a bullet" for Trump, for agreeing to a plea deal with prosecutors that made the president look bad.

    "It's called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal," he said. 

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    Trump was asked whether he thought Democrats would move to impeach him if they won control of the House of Representatives in the November midterm elections. 

    "I don't know how you would impeach somebody who's done a great job," he said. "If I got impeached, I think the market would crash."

    Shawn Zeller, a deputy editor with the Congressional Quarterly Magazine, said at this point, "Trump's problem is more political than impeachment". 

    "With the election coming in November, all this news about his former associate, Michael Cohen, and former campaign manager, Paul Manafort ... threatens Republicans positions in the November elections." 

    National Enquirer execs 'corroborate' Cohen's account

    Meanwhile, reports surfaced on Thursday that the CEO of the publisher of the National Enquirer was granted immunity by prosecutors investigating the payments made by Cohen. 

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    According to the Wall Street Journal,  American Media Inc's (AMI) Chief Executive Officer David Pecker met prosecutors to describe Trump and Cohen's involvement in hush-money deals. 

    Pecker, a longtime friend of Trump and Cohen, and Dylan Howard, another AMI executive who also reportedly received immunity, corroborated Cohen's account, according to Vanity Fair magazine. 

    Cooperation with authorities by Pecker and Howard could further implicate Trump in connection with the payments, which prosecutors have said violated campaign finance laws.

    Federal prosecutors in New York and the White House declined to comment. AMI's general counsel, Eric Klee, did not respond to a request for comment. 

    What is next for US President Donald Trump?

    Inside Story

    What is next for US President Donald Trump?

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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