Sessions served in the US Senate for 20 years
Several Republican senators spoke out on his behalf
A handful of Republican senators are speaking out in support of Attorney General Jeff Sessions after President Donald Trump slammed the former Alabama senator in a series of tweets Tuesday morning.
“Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign - ‘quietly working to boost Clinton.’ So where is the investigation A.G. @seanhannity,” the President tweeted just after 6 a.m. ET, followed by a second tweet minutes later criticizing Sessions.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” he wrote.
Trump’s tweets follow recent criticism from the President surrounding Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe. Sessions announced his recusal in March without consulting the President, and Trump’s anger grew after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to lead the investigation into contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.
“Sessions,” Trump told The New York Times in an interview, “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.”
Sessions, who served as a senator from Alabama for 20 years before becoming attorney general, was Trump’s first sitting senator to support him during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Here’s how some Republican senators are breaking with the President and responding:
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman
In a statement:
“Jeff Sessions is a friend, former colleague, and an honorable person. He is a man of deep conviction and principle who believes in the rule of law. We may not agree on every policy issue, but I believe he always has the best interests of our country at heart.”
Texas Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn
To CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day”:
“I know Jeff Sessions well, and he’s a good and honorable man and I think he’s doing what he believes he’s obligated to do under the rules that govern attorneys general and in order to restore the credibility of the Department of Justice and the FBI, something we sorely need after the last administration. That he made the right decision to recuse himself I happen to agree with him that he did. Having participated in the campaign like he did, I think in order to maintain the impression of impartiality, which is so important to building public confidence, that I think Jeff Sessions did the right thing.”
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis
In a statement:
“I’ve worked with Jeff Sessions for years, and while we certainly may not agree on the specifics of every issue, I believed he would be a great attorney general because of his unwavering commitment to the rule of law. In the nearly six months he has led the Department of Justice, he has maintained that commitment every day and demonstrated why he was widely respected during his years as a US senator.
“While some may argue that he should not have recused himself from the Russia investigation, Attorney General Sessions demonstrated good judgment by doing so and removed all appearances of a potential conflict. The attorney general’s recusal was ultimately made in the best interests of the Department of Justice and the country.
“Following eight years of organizational and accountability issues plaguing the Department of Justice, Attorney General Sessions’ leadership is needed now more than ever.”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham
In a statement:
“Jeff Sessions is one of the most decent people I’ve ever met in my political life. He’s a rock-solid conservative, but above else he believes in the rule of law. Jeff understands that we are a nation of laws, not men. On occasion, I’ve vigorously disagreed with Jeff but I’ve never once doubted his integrity or sense of fair play.
“President Trump’s tweet today suggesting Attorney General Sessions pursue prosecution of a former political rival is highly inappropriate. Prosecutorial decisions should be based on applying facts to the law without hint of political motivation. To do otherwise is to run away from the long-standing American tradition of separating the law from politics regardless of party.”
Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby
In a series of tweets:
“During the past 20 years that I have served with Jeff Sessions in the Senate, I have had the opportunity to know him well. Jeff Sessions is a man of integrity, loyalty, and extraordinary character. I join the people of Alabama in giving Jeff Sessions my deep respect and unwavering support.”
Utah Sen. Mike Lee
At the beginning of his remarks at an unrelated Senate judiciary committee nominations hearing:
Sessions is “someone I admire greatly” and “a man of integrity,” Lee said, adding that “I look forward to continuing to work with him.”
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey
In a statement:
“Sessions is a credit to the Department of Justice. He has worked tirelessly to protect our neighborhoods from violent crime, end dangerous sanctuary cities, defend the rule of law, provide for victims of crime, and ensure every American is treated fairly. I continue to support him as Attorney General of the United States.”
CNN’s Pete Grieve contributed to this report.