Sessions defends himself against extraordinary Trump attack, says he'll 'continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honour'

  • President Donald Trump on Wednesday slammed Attorney General Jeff Sessions for tapping the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate allegations of surveillance abuse.
  • Trump questioned why Sessions wasn’t using the department’s lawyers instead.
  • Sessions said on Tuesday that he thought it was “the appropriate thing” for the inspector general to take on the investigation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended himself on Wednesday against a public attack from President Donald Trump, saying the Justice Department will continue its work in a “fair and impartial manner.”

“As long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honour, and this Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution,” Sessions said in a statement.

Trump had lashed out earlier at Sessions for asking the Justice Department’s internal watchdog, who was nominated in 2011 by President Barack Obama, to investigate allegations of surveillance abuse rather than using the department’s lawyers.

“Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse,” Trump tweeted, referring to surveillance warrants granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. “Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

Sessions announced Tuesday that the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, was investigating House Republicans’ accusations – laid out in a controversial memo released earlier this month by the chamber’s Intelligence Committee – that the FBI abused its authority in seeking a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser in 2016.

House Democrats on Saturday released a memo countering those claims, arguing that the Justice Department and the FBI provided ample evidence to the surveillance court that justified seeking the so-called FISA warrant.

Horowitz has been the department’s inspector general since 2012.

“We believe the Department of Justice must adhere to the highest standards in the FISA court, and yes, it will be investigated, and I think that’s just the appropriate thing,” Sessions said at a news conference Tuesday, adding that the inspector general would lead the investigation.

Trump’s tweet on Wednesday was far from the first time he has publicly criticised his attorney general. In a dayslong Twitter rant last week, the president demanded to know why Sessions wasn’t investigating Obama in connection with the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.

Trump has also berated Sessions since the attorney general recused himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation in March. Trump has said he wouldn’t have nominated Sessions as attorney general had he known Sessions would do so.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story said Horowitz continued to serve as the Justice Department inspector general because the president had not nominated a replacement. However, there was no vacancy for the president to fill because Horowitz was confirmed by the Senate in 2012 and does not have a term of office.

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