Sessions’ comments follow critical remarks Trump made in an interview with The New York Times, in which the president said he would not have hired Sessions as attorney general if he’d known he would recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia electoral investigation.
In March, Sessions removed himself from the Russia investigation following reports that he met with Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak in 2016 while he was a U.S. senator and a Trump campaign adviser.
Under oath at his confirmation hearings in January, Sessions did not disclose the meetings — and further testified that he “did not have communications with the Russians.” When asked whether he had been in contact with anyone connected to Moscow’s government, he answered, “No.”
Trump said Sessions recusing himself was “very unfair.’
“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump told the Times. “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.'”
Trump also said Sessions “gave some bad answers” during his confirmation hearings about his communications with Russians.
News of Trump’s remarks prompted some to call, or at least wonder if, the criticism might lead to Sessions leaving his post. Thursday, Sessions said he has no plans to quit.
“I have the honor of serving as attorney general. It’s something that goes beyond any thought that I would have ever had for myself. We love this job. We love this department, and I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate,” Sessions said during a press conference.
Following Trump’s comment, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said he still has confidence in Sessions.
“I voted for him and I haven’t seen anything that he’s done since then that would cause me to change my mind,” he said. “Now, we have some policy differences like on sentencing reform and stuff like that and maybe a lot of other policy differences. But I think he’s been appointed to be attorney general.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he agreed with Trump’s belief that Sessions should not have recused himself.
“His attorney general should not have recused himself over reported incidental contacts with Russian officials,” Paul wrote on Twitter.