According to reports from the Washington Post, Politico, and CNN, President Donald Trump was not happy about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from any pending or active investigations into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. Sessions announced his recusal the day before after it was revealed that he met with the Russian ambassador on two occasions, a fact (somewhat) at odds with his congressional testimony. But sources inside the White House say that Trump would have preferred Sessions to hold his ground. And they say that he lashed out at his inner circle on Friday, irate over seeing what was shaping up to be one of the most positive weeks of his presidency once again end in apparent turmoil.
“Nobody has seen him that upset,” one source told CNN.
Trump reportedly gathered White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Stephen Bannon, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Sean Spicer, communications director Mike Dubke, and White House counsel Don McGahn into the Oval Office on Friday to air out his grievances. There, he let them know that he was angry over seeing the Sessions story overshadow the most well-received speech of his short political career.
“The staff fumbled,” he told the crew, according to another CNN source.
“The president is showing increasing flashes of anger over the performance of his senior staff and daily developments about Russia overshadowing his message,” reported the network. “He feels attacked by the media, former Obama administration officials and other, and frustrated that things are not going more smoothly. The president expressed his anger at non-stop leaks undermining his administration.”
According to Politico, the Friday meeting was originally convened to discuss “substantive policy rollouts” coming next week. But, they reported, the meeting “got heated” when the subject of Sessions’ recusal came up.
“What, Trump wanted to know, was the logic of the move? The president made it clear he thought the whole thing had been handled poorly, and that Sessions shouldn’t have recused himself,” wrote Politico.
The most interesting part of this story is that, while it hasn’t been specifically reported, it would appear that Sessions did not run his recusal by the White House prior to making his announcement. Or, if he did, the discussion didn’t make it all the way to President Trump. That’s not to say that Trump should have been involved in the decision, but rather to point out what the Democrats and the media will likely ignore: Sessions, contrary to popular belief, is apparently running his own show at the Justice Department. As it should be. In a strange way, the story of Trump’s anger proves that Sessions really didn’t need to recuse himself at all.
Unfortunately, it’s becoming clearer every day that this Russia story is not going away. And until all the dirty laundry is aired, it’s going to be very difficult for President Trump to stay focused on his agenda.