WASHINGTON ― Facing yet another Twitter broadside from the president who appointed him, Jeff Sessions said Wednesday that he’ll continue to work with “integrity and honor” and follow the law so long as he’s attorney general of the United States.
President Donald Trump, evidently after watching a “Fox & Friends” segment on Wednesday morning, tweeted that Sessions should not put Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz in charge of investigating allegations of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuse that Republicans have been leveraging to attack the FBI and the Russia investigation being run by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Sessions said Tuesday that the inspector general would take on questions about how the Justice Department handled the FISA court application involving former Trump campaign official Carter Page, who had extensive ties to Russia.
While many of the key players involved in the FISA court application are Republicans ― and while the FBI stated that the Republican memo about the FISA application was inaccurate ― it’s become a tool that Trump supporters have wielded against the Mueller probe, which the Trump administration perceives as a threat.
Horowitz, the Justice Department’s well-respected inspector general, is a former Justice Department career lawyer who served in both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and was appointed to the U.S. Sentencing Commission by Bush. Obama appointed Horowitz inspector general, and the U.S. Senate approved his nomination by voice vote. He now serves as the chair of the council for inspectors general across the U.S. government.
Horowitz recently told Congress that Trump’s proposed budget would “substantially inhibit” his office’s work.
“We have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this Department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary,” Sessions said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. “As long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.”
Sessions’ statement may be his strongest rebuttal of Trump’s criticism to date. He’d previously said the Justice Department would defend itself from “unfair” criticism amid a sustained attack from Republicans on Capitol Hill who have been engaged in an effort to shield the Trump administration from Mueller’s probe.
Sessions reportedly offered to resign last year, but Trump ultimately rejected it. Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request from HuffPost, the Justice Department took the position that revealing whether Sessions had offered a resignation letter would violate his personal privacy.
The vast majority of Trump supporters now believe that the FBI is biased against the president. Most of Trump’s supporters either say they trust the FBI very little or not at all.
Ryan Reilly is HuffPost’s senior justice reporter, covering the Justice Department, federal law enforcement, criminal justice and legal affairs. Have a tip? Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Signal at 202-527-9261.