By Kaitlyn Schallhorn, ,
Published May 30, 2018
From a “world-class legal mind” to “beleaguered,” it took less than six months for President Trump to change his opinion on his attorney general.
Trump said in May – a little more than a year after Jeff Sessions recused himself from the ongoing Russia investigation – that he wishes he would have picked someone else to head the Department of Justice.
Trump’s public criticism of Sessions is a far cry from the praise he heaped on the former Alabama senator during the campaign when he once retweeted someone’s request for him to select Sessions as his running mate.
Here’s a look at how Trump’s public relationship with Sessions has changed over time.
While Trump was still battling Democrat Hillary Clinton for the White House, Trump often praised Sessions, an early supporter of the bombastic Republican.
Trump thanked Sessions for his endorsement in a lengthy Facebook post in February 2016, saying he was “deeply honored” to have Sessions’ support.
“He has been called the Senate’s indispensable man and the gold standard,” Trump said.
In June 2016, Trump responded to a Twitter user who suggested Trump tap Sessions as his running mate. Trump shared the suggestion and added, “He is a great guy!”
Trump introduced Sessions “with great pride” as the country’s attorney general on Feb. 9, 2017.
“He’s a man of integrity, a man of principle, and a man of total, utter resolve,” Trump said at the time.
“These dangerous times require a determined attorney general, which is what Jeff is,” Trump said. “Jeff understands that the job of attorney general is to serve and protect the people of the United States, and that is exactly what he will do, and do better than anybody else can. He’s trained better for it than anybody else.”
In March 2017, Trump initially defended Sessions as he was criticized for meeting with a Russian ambassador.
But since, Trump has lambasted his attorney general on social media and to press, calling him “beleaguered” and slamming him for not investigating Clinton – even though Trump himself said after he was elected that he didn’t plan to pursue an investigation into her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Trump told The New York Times in August 2017 that he wouldn’t have picked Sessions to lead the Justice Department if he knew he would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.
“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,” he said.
Trump repeated that line of attack in a series of tweets in May. The president quoted comments from House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, a Republican, who disputed suggestions that a conversation Trump had with Sessions about his recusal strayed into obstruction of justice territory.
“I think what the president is doing is expressing frustration that Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions should have shared these reasons for recusal before he took the job, not afterward,” Gowdy told CBS News. “If I were the president and I picked someone to be the country’s chief law enforcement officer, and they told me later, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m not going to be able to participate on the most important case in the office,’ I would be frustrated too.”
“There are lots of really good lawyers in the country. He could have picked someone else,” Gowdy continued.
Trump quoted Gowdy’s remarks and added, “And I wish I did!”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.