In an interview just after being forced to resign as attorney general on Wednesday, Jeff Sessions stood by his decision to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller probe, while acknowledging that the length of the investigation has proved “unhealthy.”
Sessions spoke to Wall Street Journal’s Judith Miller as he was leaving the Justice Department.
Sessions told Miller that he did not expect the Mueller probe would last as long as it has. And though he suggested the 18 month investigation has lasted too long, he said that “the country is committed to this course.”
He said that he is “confident” that the investigation is being handled “appropriately and with justification.”
Sessions was replaced by his chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker. A former U.S. attorney, Whitaker has publicly criticized the Mueller investigation.
President Donald Trump has made no secret of his frustration with Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe. Sessions recused himself on March 3, 2017 after revelations that he had undisclosed contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign.
The first senator to endorse Trump, Sessions served as chairman of the campaign’s national security advisory committee. Sessions had three encounters with Kislyak that he did not disclose during the Senate confirmation process. And while Democrats accused him of lying about the contacts, Sessions said that one encounter was a brief greeting while the other two involved his work as a senator on the Armed Services Committee.
Sessions’ recusal put Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. Rosenstein appointed Mueller special counsel on May 17, 2017, a week after Trump fired Comey as FBI director.
Trump has said that he would not have hired Sessions had he known that he would recuse himself from the investigation. He has also accused Sessions of being disloyal.
But Sessions stood by his decision to recuse, which was recommended by DOJ attorneys.
“No one is above supervision,” he told Miller.