Analysis: Trump’s Sessions remarks show penchant for shaming
WASHINGTON (AP) — The art of humiliation appears to be a key operating principle for President Donald Trump, and his remarks about Attorney General Jeff Sessions are the latest example of the ease with which the president is willing to air grievances about members of his team.
Trump took on Sessions in an interview Wednesday with The New York Times, criticizing the former U.S. senator and early Trump campaign supporter for recusing himself from the FBI investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Trump called Sessions’ decision to step aside “very unfair to the president” and added that he would have chosen someone else to lead the Justice Department if he’d had any inkling that Sessions would take such a step.
Sessions, who said Thursday he has no plans to resign, has plenty of administration company to compare notes with.
A look at other team members and supporters Trump has taken shots at:
Trump fired Comey as head of the FBI on May 9 over the Russia probe. Trump sent an aide to the Justice Department to deliver a notification letter to Comey, but the director was in California for a previously scheduled appearance and learned of his dismissal on TV. The following day, during an Oval Office meeting with top Russian government officials, Trump described Comey as a “nut job” and said his dismissal relieved “great pressure” from the investigation, the Times later reported. In a separate NBC News interview, Trump said Comey was a “showboat” and “grandstander” who was doing a bad job at the FBI.
In an interview with the New York Post in April, as Bannon’s public profile was rising, Trump downplayed his chief strategist’s role in the campaign by claiming Bannon didn’t become involved “until very late.” Bannon took over as campaign CEO in August 2016. At the time of the interview, Bannon was also a central figure in rampant White House infighting.
Trump played down Bannon’s role by telling the newspaper, “I’m my own strategist.”
Back in March, Trump’s beleaguered chief of staff joined the president at the table for a meeting of auto company CEO’s in Michigan. Trump marveled at Volvo, Kia and other companies that were represented, then said: “And then I look at Reince,” drawing scattered laughs with a tone that suggested Priebus was a less impressive presence.
“He should run a car company. Probably will end up doing that in a long time,” Trump said of Priebus, who has survived endless speculation that he is close to being fired. Trump quickly added that Priebus has “done a great job.”
Trump dealt a blow to his embattled press secretary during a visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican during the president’s first foreign trip in May.
Trump excluded Spicer, a devout Roman Catholic, from the group of White House staff who got to meet Francis. The group included first lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom are Jewish and also work in the White House.
Trump recently opened a lunch meeting with ambassadors of countries on the U.N. Security Council by asking everyone seated in the State Dining Room whether they liked Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
“Because if you don’t, otherwise, she can easily be replaced,” Trump said to awkward laughter, including from Haley, most recently the governor of South Carolina. “No, we won’t do that, I promise. We won’t do that. She’s doing a fantastic job.”
Haley has been one of the most outspoken members of the Trump administration, with tough talk on Russia, Syria and North Korea.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN
McCain, the former Navy aviator and Vietnam prisoner of war recently diagnosed with brain cancer, supported Trump’s candidacy even after Trump insisted that McCain wasn’t a war hero. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK?” Trump said at an event in Iowa last year.
McCain later broke with Trump after the release of a video in which the presidential candidate made lewd comments about women. McCain said he would not vote for Trump.
NEW JERSEY GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE
Trump poked fun at the overweight Christie last year while helping the New Jersey governor pay off debt from Christie’s failed bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. At the New Jersey event, Trump mentioned that a Nabisco cookie plant was leaving Chicago for Mexico. He pointed to the governor and told the audience that Christie would stop eating Nabisco cookies.
“I’m not eating Oreos anymore. Neither is Chris,” Trump said, drawing laughter from the crowd. Trump had also put Christie in charge of the presidential transition team. But soon after winning the election, Trump replaced the governor with Mike Pence, then the vice president-elect.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Darlene Superville has covered the White House for The Associated Press since 2009.
Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap