Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired back at President Donald Trump Thursday afternoon, after Trump said he “never took control” of the Justice Department.
“While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action. However, no nation has a more talented, more dedicated group of law enforcement investigators and prosecutors than the United States,” Sessions said in a statement.
“I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda — one that protects the safety and security and rights of the American people, reduces violent crime, enforces our immigration laws, promotes economic growth, and advances religious liberty.”
“I am proud to serve with them and proud of the work we have done in successfully advancing the rule of law,” he added.
Trump has frequently criticized Sessions since taking office and often expresses frustration over the attorney general’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
The assertion from the attorney general that he has in fact taken control of the Justice Department comes after the President lashed out at Sessions in an interview that aired on Fox News Thursday morning.
After months of attacks, Sessions spoke up on Thursday in part because the President said on Fox News that he “never took control of the Justice Department” — a “macro” criticism that struck a different tone than Trump’s more granular gripes on Twitter about different individual cases like former FBI employees Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, according to a source familiar with the attorney general’s thinking.
“I put in an attorney general who never took control of the Justice Department. Jeff Sessions, never took control of the Justice Department. It’s sort of an incredible thing,” Trump said during the interview.
Trump said during the interview that even his “enemies” have told him that Sessions should have informed him he was planning to recuse himself so that he could have picked a different attorney general.
“What kind of a man is this?,” Trump said, recalling his reaction when he found out that Sessions decided to recuse.
Earlier this month, Trump escalated his criticism of the nation’s top law enforcement officer when he said in a tweet that Sessions is “scared stiff and Missing in Action.”
Trump’s criticism of the Justice Department has gone further than just targeting Sessions. “Everybody sees what’s going on in the Justice Department, I always put justice now with quotes,” Trump said during the Fox News interview.
Trump did not directly answer whether he plans to fire Sessions or deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation, when asked during the Fox News interview.