Predictably, when he called for questions, reporters only asked about the president’s Times interview the day before. But the attorney general betrayed little emotion about what his boss had to say: “I have the honor of serving as attorney general,” Sessions replied. “It is something that goes beyond any thought I would have ever had for myself. We love this job. We love this department. And I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate.”
It’s not clear what Sessions considers “appropriate,” but it’s unlikely he’d feel the need to resign solely because of veiled threats to his job. For one, the president reportedly declined Sessions’s offer to do so in the late spring, suggesting that Trump’s fulminations might be more smoke than fire. (Trump himself effectively confirmed past anonymous reporting by admitting he’s upset with Sessions.) With the president’s hands-off approach to governing, Sessions also enjoys relatively free reign as a Cabinet member, with broad authority to imprint his ideological views upon the American legal system. It’s unlikely he’ll give up that power after a hostile Times interview.
There’s no evidence, either, that Mueller has altered course after repeated criticisms from the president. He has kept quiet since his appointment as special counsel in May, when he was put in charge of the sprawling federal inquiry into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. That silence would ostensibly appeal to a president critical of leaks, yet it did not dissuade Trump from describing the limits of his tolerance for Mueller’s investigation. In the Times interview, he confirmed he has a “red line” when it comes to non-Russia-related aspects of his family business.
“If Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia—is that a red line?” asked reporter Michael Schmidt. “Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?” added reporter Maggie Haberman.
“I would say yeah,” Trump replied. “I would say yes.” He then went on to explain it was possible Russian individuals may have purchased condos at some of his properties, but told the Times reporters that, aside from a 2013 Miss Universe pageant held there, “I don’t make money from Russia.”
Trump’s answers on Mueller came one month after the president reportedly considered ousting him. He has also strongly condemned Mueller’s investigation in recent months, describing it as a politically motivated “witch hunt” concocted by Democrats to undermine the legitimacy of his upset victory in the presidential election. While his advisers eventually reportedly convinced Trump not to dismiss Mueller, the episode raised fears on Capitol Hill that the president could eventually trigger a crisis reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre during Watergate.