Washington: Attorney general Jeff Sessions has no intention of quitting, a US official said, despite President Donald Trump excoriating him over his decision to recuse himself from the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Sessions, 70, drew the ire of the president after he stepped away from the investigation in March. The inquiry has since broadened and dominated much of Trump’s presidency, sweeping up top White House officials and family members of the president.

“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 New York Times on Wednesday. “It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president."

It was a dramatic public break between Trump and one of his campaign’s earliest major supporters, a member of the Republican political establishment who helped him on his improbable journey from reality-TV star to GOP nominee to president.

Tensions between the White House and Justice Department are far from unusual, but Trump choosing to air his gripes in such an open way is different from previous presidents, said the official, who asked not to be identified discussing Sessions’s response to the president’s comments.

Trump cited advice from Sessions and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein when he fired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey in May. Rosenstein then named Robert Mueller, Comey’s predecessor at the FBI, as special counsel to lead the investigation into Russia’s election meddling and determine whether the Trump campaign cooperated with the Kremlin.

Trump warned Mueller against looking too closely at his family’s finances.

Bad answers

Trump also faulted Sessions for his lack of clarity during his confirmation hearings, when he said he didn’t communicate with Russians during the campaign, despite meetings he had with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, at least twice in 2016.

Democrats called for Sessions to resign after the meetings came to light, and Sessions announced that he would recuse himself from any investigations related to the campaign.

“Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers," Trump told the Times. “Yeah, he gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t."

Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, became attorney general after serving in the US Senate for 20 years. In February 2016, amid a heated Republican nomination race, he became the first senator to formally endorse Trump.

While Sessions isn’t involved in the Russia investigation, the former prosecutor is actively imposing a law-and-order agenda on the Justice Department that fulfils his career-long goals and Trump’s hard-line views.

Sessions has issued stricter charging policies for prosecutors, taken a tough stance on non-violent drug offences, including marijuana use, and pulled back from inquiries into alleged police mistreatment of minority suspects. Bloomberg

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