Sessions Vows to Stay on as Attorney General ‘as Long as That Is Appropriate’

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed on Thursday to stay in his job, a day after President Trump upbraided Mr. Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

Asked whether he was considering resigning, Mr. Sessions said he and his Justice Department colleagues intended to continue to serve and he would do so “as long as that is appropriate.”

“We are serving right now. The work we are doing today is the kind of work that we intend to continue,” he said at a news conference announcing what he described as the dismantling of an online operation that sold narcotics and other illicit goods.

“I am totally confident that we can continue to run this office in an effective way,” he added.

As other officials, including a representative of European law enforcement, stepped forward to speak, Mr. Sessions stared straight ahead blankly, continually folding a piece of paper with handwritten notes before tucking it into a pocket inside his jacket.

Mr. Trump’s confidence in Mr. Sessions, an early supporter of his during the presidential campaign, has wavered since Mr. Sessions recused himself in March from the inquiry amid revelations that he failed to disclose contacts with the Russian ambassador. Mr. Sessions offered to resign this spring as his relationship with the president grew tense, but Mr. Trump turned him down.

But Mr. Trump said in an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday that he never would have nominated Mr. Sessions had he known he would recuse himself from overseeing the investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, an inquiry that has dogged Mr. Trump’s presidency.

“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” Mr. Trump said. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”

[Read excerpts from The Times’s interview with President Trump.]

When Mr. Sessions stepped aside from the Russia investigation, it set in motion a series of moves at the Justice Department that helped prompt the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the inquiry.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Sessions declined to comment on whether he and the president had discussed Mr. Trump’s rebuke, or whether the men were scheduled to meet.

Mr. Trump also aimed his criticism at the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who said Thursday that he was committed to his work, offering no indication that he was considering resigning.

“I was proud to be here yesterday, I’m proud to be here today, I’ll be proud to work here tomorrow,” Mr. Rosenstein said. His appointment of the special counsel overseeing the inquiry, Robert S. Mueller III, was said to have taken both Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions by surprise.

In the interview, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Rosenstein had played both sides when it came to the firing of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey. Mr. Rosenstein had recommended the dismissal, but then appointed Mr. Mueller, who may be investigating whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey.

Mr. Trump also suggested he was troubled by Mr. Rosenstein’s longtime affiliation with a heavily Democratic city, Baltimore, where Mr. Rosenstein worked as a federal prosecutor.

“There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” the president said.


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