“I didn’t want to make him attorney general, but he was the first senator to endorse me, so I felt a little bit of an obligation,” Trump said on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.” “He came to see me four times, just begging me to be attorney general. He wasn’t, to me, equipped to be attorney general, but he just wanted it, wanted it, wanted it.”
Trump noted that Sessions was from Alabama — “a state that I love” — and that Sessions had served as the state’s attorney general.
“He was a smaller version of that in Alabama for a little while,” Trump said. “He was a very average guy, I find out.”
Sessions is currently seeking to win back his old Senate seat in a race in which Trump has endorsed another Alabama Republican.
In a statement later Friday, Sessions said he remains a Trump supporter and plans to vote for him in November but took issue with his account of events.
“I never begged for the job of attorney general, not 4 times, not 1 time, not ever,” Sessions said in a statement. “The President offered me the job, I took it, I stood up for the truth and performed at the highest levels. Doing the right thing is not weakness, it is strength. My foundation is built on rock, not sand.”
Sessions drew Trump’s ire early in his tenure in 2017 stemming from his decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation of possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s team during the 2016 election campaign.
Because of his early support for Trump’s candidacy, Sessions said at the time that he should stay on the sidelines of the probe under Justice Department guidelines.
In his statement Friday, Sessions said he “would have been breaking the law” if he hadn’t recused himself.
During the Fox News interview, Trump was asked whether the Russia investigation would have proceeded if his current attorney general, William P. Barr, had been in place at the time instead of Sessions.
“No,” Trump responded. “He would have stopped it immediately.”
“Jeff was just very weak and very sad,” Trump added. “Instead of being a man and saying this was hoax, he recused himself.”
Despite his disappointment with Sessions, Trump insisted he did the right thing by not immediately firing him. Sessions resigned as attorney general in November 2018 at Trump’s request.
“I learned a lot from Richard Nixon,” Trump said of the president who resigned during the Watergate scandal. “Don’t fire people. . . . I study history.”
Trump has endorsed Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn University football coach, in a GOP runoff in the Senate race, scheduled for July 14.
In November, the winner will face Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who won a special election in 2017 to replace Sessions after he joined Trump’s Cabinet.