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Trump melts down after reports of Sessions being key witness in Mueller’s investigation

"And I wish I did!"

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions listens as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech in New Hampshire on March 19, 2018. CREDIT:  Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions listens as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech in New Hampshire on March 19, 2018. CREDIT: Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

In March 2017, President Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation in a fraught meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, according to a New York Times report published Tuesday.

The Times also reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Trump’s public and private attacks against Sessions, as well as the confrontation last year where Trump asked Sessions to un-recuse himself, as part of the investigation into whether Trump tried to obstruct justice.

On Wednesday morning, Trump wrote a series of tweets quoting Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) who was asked minutes before on CBS This Morning about the New York Times report about Sessions. The extended Gowdy quote — which minimized the idea that Trump had committed obstruction of justice by asking Sessions to reverse his recusal — concluded with Gowdy saying, “There are lots of really good lawyers in the country, he could have picked [someone] else.”

Trump’s own words then concluded the tweet with, “And I wish I did!”

Thus, hours after the report that Sessions refused Trump’s request to reassert  control of the Russia probe last year and is a “key witness” for Mueller’s team, Trump’s reaction was not to keep quiet and consult his legal team. He instead explicitly and publicly stated that he wishes he had picked someone else to run the Justice Department.

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This is not the first time Trump has tweeted criticism about Sessions. He has regularly called his attorney general out for what Trump seems to view as a weak position on investigating Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration. He’s called him “beleaguered” and said “good luck” to a report of Republicans in Congress asking Sessions to investigate James Comey and Clinton. Trump also had suggested that because of his recusal, he would not have chosen Sessions last summer in a New York Times interview.

“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” Trump said in last year’s Times interview. “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.”

Publicly questioning your own decision to nominate your own attorney general hours after it gets publicly confirmed that said attorney general remains a key witness in an investigation into whether you obstructed justice by interfering in said investigation does not seem like a sound legal strategy. Especially when investigators are looking into “public and private attacks on Mr. Sessions and efforts to get him to resign.”

This also suggests a carrot-and-stick approach to the way Trump could be approaching the Mueller investigation. He uses public attacks on the perceived disloyalty of current and former staff who have been interviewed by Mueller as the sticks. For the carrots, there are the reports that Trump’s lawyers dangled pardons in front of Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn (as well as the use of Republican party money to fund the legal defenses of other aides).

Trump’s use of Gowdy’s quote from the CBS interview is ironic, given that Gowdy spent the first part of the interview (as well as another interview last night on Fox News) blowing up Trump’s “spygate” argument that the FBI was spying on his campaign.