If the administration of President Donald Trump can be likened to a reality television franchise—and senior White House officials think it can—then Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the dating-show contestant who had no idea what she was signing up for.
While other participants have made it clear from the outset that they are not in the West Wing to make friends, the former Alabama senator is holding out hope that the winsome bachelor wasn’t just making a show for the cameras when he said they’d be together forever.
On Tucker Carlson Tonight, the Trump White House’s version of a confession cam, Sessions told the Fox News host that while the president’s criticisms sting, he is still committed to using his time in office to serve Trump’s agenda, no matter the invective publicly slung his way.
“It’s kind of hurtful, but the president of the United States is a strong leader,” Sessions said on Thursday. “He is determined to move this country in the direction he believes it needs to go to make us great again, and he has had a lot of criticisms. And he is steadfastly determined to get his job done, and he wants all of us to do our jobs, and that’s what I intend to do.”
And what of the Trump’s public spurning of his own attorney general, Carlson asked? Sessions was once a winner of the future president’s first-impression rose—one of Trump’s first major endorsers, Sessions announced his full-throated support for the president’s candidacy at one of the biggest political rallies of the campaign.
But for nearly a week, the president has made a daily point of bullying Sessions for his decision in March to recuse himself from any involvement in the probe into Russian attempts to influence the American presidential election. In a no-holds-barred interview with The New York Times, Trump even said he would not have hired Sessions had he known that recusal was in the cards.
Trump has been backed up by the newest keyholder to the Fantasy Suite, White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who said of the estranged president and attorney general on Tuesday that “they need to either get together or separate.”
Trump’s harassment campaign has amounted to what the attorney general’s allies see as a concerted effort to turn Sessions into another reality show staple: the one who sends herself home.
“He can make that clear at any time—I serve at the pleasure at the president,” Sessions said. “If he wants to make a change, he can certainly do so and I would be glad to yield in that circumstance, no doubt about it.”
Until Trump asks him to leave face-to-face, however, Sessions plans to serve as the head of the Justice Department up to the moment he is asked to say his goodbyes.
“I understand his feelings about it, because this has been a big distraction for him,” Sessions acknowledged, but “I’m confident I made the right decision. The decision is consistent with the rule of law. An attorney general who doesn’t follow the law is not very effective in leading the Department of Justice.”
In the meantime, Sessions said, he plans on addressing the president’s primary law-and-order concern: leaks from within his own White House from other, less devoted members of his administration.
“It cannot continue. Some people need to go to jail,” Sessions said. “The president has every right to ask the Department of Justice to be more aggressive in that, and we intend to.”
As for a one-on-one date with his estranged boss, Sessions said, “I don’t think it’s on the calendar yet.” But he added, “I understand his mission, I understand his goals... [and] I share his beliefs.”
Until then, Sessions said, he would work to enact Trump’s agenda—even if Trump is secretly waiting for him to pack his bags.