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EVANSVILLE, Ind. — President Donald Trump called the special counsel probe into his campaign’s ties with Russia an “illegal investigation” Thursday, but said that attorney general Jeff Sessions is safe in his job through November’s midterm elections.
“I view it as an illegal investigation,” Trump told Bloomberg News in a Thursday interview conducted in the Oval Office, saying that “great scholars” have said it should never have been launched.
Trump has made little secret of his anger at Sessions for recusing himself from Russia-related matters, and has often mused about relieving the nation’s top law enforcement official of his duties. Sessions’ recusal cleared the way for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller to the special counsel role.
Some Republicans have worried that a Justice Department bloodbath could harm their chances of holding the House and Senate in the midterms, but Trump told Bloomberg he wouldn’t move on the attorney general before then.
“I just would love to have him do a great job,” Trump said. But he would not say whether Sessions would stay in place after the election.
It is not unheard of for a president to fire an unpopular Cabinet official in the wake of a midterm election. President George W. Bush famously canned Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld right after Democrats won the House and Senate in the 2006 midterms.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has formed a close bond with Trump, said earlier this week on “Today” that the relationship between the president and his attorney general is “beyond repair.”
Graham, an advocate for an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system that includes both border security improvements and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the country, has also placed blame for the separation of parents from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border squarely at Sessions’ feet.
“I think the immigration issue was poorly handled. The zero-tolerance program, I don’t know where that came from,” Graham told CBS. “And I think that sort of blindsided the president. The bottom line is, this relationship is not working, it’s not good for the Department of Justice.”