Sessions hits back at Trump: DOJ will not be influenced by 'political considerations'

Attorney General Jeff Sessions defends himself after presidential criticism.
16:47 | 08/23/18

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Transcript for Sessions hits back at Trump: DOJ will not be influenced by 'political considerations'
Hi there welcome to ABC news live on ABC news political director Rick Klein joined here in our Washington newsroom by Jordan Phelps captured falters from our. White House reporting team and over at the White House right now ABC news correspondent Terry Moran an awful lot to get to today guys and a couple of different themes but I wanna start. With the that the rocket fired by the the attorney general the United States the guys taken a lot of incoming player and a little bit. Exactly what that's about out from president trump himself. But a response from the attorney general this afternoon. Saying that he would continue to keep politics out of the Department of Justice even as he talks about the importance of the president's. Agenda all really striking statements in an usual statement. Where he goes on about the you do to wait at the departing justice will be improperly influenced by political considerations and I wanna play in a moment. The president trump interview from this morning that spore a lot of this but Terry. What do you make of this and in what does it say about the state of affairs that the president's that that the attorney general saying. I will be free of politics is actually a brush back pitch into the president. There's never adult day here at the white or in Washington residents dropped a running joke because. Heat. On drama and he has targeted for months everybody his own attorney Jeff Sessions this kind of before. Bandage on. His attorney general Bobby Kennedy and that feeling was mutual. Lyndon Johnson detected the secretary of defense Robert MacNamara and about other things like that through history. Bill Clinton and Janet Reno had their issues that but nothing quite as open as this with the president hiring again and again calling. Actions an idiot and very weak and somebody not in control of the Justice Department and finally it seems. Jeff Sessions had an up and fired back today a dip spending his department. Look one thinks that it happened we have heard. Four line prosecutors people in the FBI as president from whales away. On the Justice Department is. Is acting get your more out and that's your boss the attorney general as long term attorney general stand and defend. The rank and finally in the Justice Department. Undoubtedly help them over there. Because sessions is right the that prosecution of crimes. The pursuit of the enforcement of the law the Justice Department has got to be at eight partisan as a political as possible. And this is the quote that appears to have put Jeff Sessions into this position now want to play that sound from a Fox News interview that aired this morning all taped yesterday. The dams. Are very strongly that justice I put an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department Jeff Sessions. Never took control of the Justice Department about who and everybody sees what's going on and the Justice Department I was would guess is now with quotes. It's a very very sad day Jeff Sessions recuse himself. Which he shouldn't have done portion of to ultimate. Even my enemies saying that Jeff Sessions should've told you that he was gonna recuse himself or that you would have put a man. He took did you and any set I'm going to recuse myself. I said what kind of a man is this. He went on to say it's odd that he only gave him the job because of loyalty. That's a new one that's got to cut to the heart of what it needs to be concessions its new one but it's also one of it's important things to president trump loyalty as a witness. For our supporters so not. Too surprising to hear that but again he's upset with sessions for accusing himself from a special investigations aren't even saying that for a year or he's on let's. It's not anything new with her from enemies Colin beleaguered on many occasions. To wonder why the president doesn't just fire his attorney general. It seems today like sessions was baking to get fired when he app that statement. Came just minutes before he was set to show up at the White House for meeting with president and his son in law on criminal justice reform. And I I talked to a source you always got what he was doing your basically inviting firing and this source said no absolutely not the attorney general just feels very confident in his performance and is is making that case. And Terry Moran at the same time some of summit comes allies on Capitol Hill appear to recently that they would be okay maybe even expecting this firing a notable quote from Chuck Grassley the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In saying that even though he is sent before he wouldn't have time for confirmation hearings he is apple and that time on the schedule that's that's that's more than smoke signal I suppose that's a pretty blatant direction. From from Capitol Hill that they might be okay with seeing Jeff Sessions go at some point maybe after the mid terms. Shares like it Jeff Sessions better a reach around is back and eating and pull the knives out of there because when Washington gets like that you know Rick. Blood in the water and it. That this is the drug administration the trump show. And you never know what's gonna happen in the next episode. And in this episode it looks like. Grassley and members of congress are admitting reality the president and his attorney general having terrible relationship and be. Basically signaling. You know was it. If you have the authority to fire the attorney general although I looked it up to date no president has ever hired an attorney general. There that they demanded the resignation of attorney general's and gotten them from from the most famously and the Saturday night massacre when. Nicks and demanded that his attorney general fire the special prosecutor in that investigation in the Watergate investigation and when. Elliot Richardson did not next NASA's resignation but no. President ever fired attorneys are but this is that you're fired president so we make we make if you. In either first for everything and looking now it to the next chapter of the of the trump saga is this one is going to have a real tabloid feel to it because. I ABC news has learned that immunity deals haven't reached in the southern district of New York. With two individuals. Executives at the parent company of The National Enquirer including David Packard and in the top. There's got a lot more attention a long time friend of president trump has been involved for some time in the so called catch and kill. Policies where damaging information would be purchased by his publication and buried that is part of the allegations that Michael Coen. A pleading guilty to all leaders this week and guys these deeds does open up off. Whole realm of possibilities you've got decades of a relationship between president trop. And the and the parent company and the owner in the operators The National Enquirer that could suddenly be in the open. Yeah and Cohen was president from attorneys for ten years so he knows a lot about that in as we reported an eight broad. During that raid of Cohen hotel room office and home. The warrants specifically had information there about an a and I where David Packers the CEO so. According to our sources who told us and they also think a quick. Is more worried about Michael Cullen. And the Russian investigation so it could open up a whole another realm of possibilities there now data. Out at this is a bag of worms for this president are his longtime picks are to be. Now you know opened up to investigators here and just completely flipped on him and I it's just really interesting also that this Connolly and guilty plea is the first time. That we've actually seen a plea that deals. Directly with the president's campaign so BC man fourteen on separate issues but this is going right to the heart of the issue the president in its. And Terry what is the CDU that we now know that this is part of what the prosecutors have been talking to does it suggest that that there were corroborating witnesses to what Michael calling this ad is it. Does it suggest to use it to their other people that are willing to implicate his Jordan's that the president himself. It feels that way doesn't ever get it feels that way because prosecutors in in New York are after. That part of the law which promises the American people that anybody who cat gets money or get something of value to run for federal office. Will report. And we'll know about it we'll know what the corporations are. Our bar helping a candidate will know the candidate is self funding and will know if national enquirer tabloid publication. Is helping the president behind us think that all needs to be reported under the notion that sunshine and transparency make the best informed electorate. The prosecutors in New York thinks something sinister happened here that this was really a way up helping the count campaign had not telling the American people about. And that is a crime. Whether or nothing and probity in the past it's been difficult to prove this kind of crime before juries. Juries are willing to give. I can't answer that demonstrated willing to give candidates the benefit of the doubt about personal matters in particular John Edwards is one case it comes to mind. Where the prosecutor said. When John Edwards paid money. Two them woman not his wife who had his child. That that was essentially contribution to his own campaign and though though the woman. We've provided that money was often tied up and that rich donor to John Edwards the jury didn't like that case. Citizens pride. So these are not easy cases to bring but it looks like that's the hunt that they are. And of course just 48 hours ago it was not just Michael calling pleading guilty but it was those. The conviction. Ran out by the jury of Paul Matta for Catherine spent a lot of time outlet that 68 outside a courthouse and welcome. The question now is whether all of that time is spent for not because in question is will president come pardon Paul matter for he was asked about that as part of the Fox News interview. Earlier today look. I have great respect for what he's done ends hams what he's done you know you worked for Ronald Reagan years he worked for Bob Dole. He work I guess his firm worked for McCain he worked for many many. Many many years. And I would say what he did some of the charges and threw against him every consultant every lobbyist in Washington probably does. Each who seems like he's saying well first ought barely knew the guy and he was mindful of them are possibilities all these other guys but. All you can really doing that all know he's actually not ruling out apart and and it makes you wonder to what about the other pardons that the president has issued so bartering his presidency you know he loves this hour. Is that signaling. A potential partner in for folks in Russian investigation and with Paul McKenna fort. And he's. Not on his attorneys saying that they appreciate the comments in the present a United States our sources say that there aren't. Official back channel conversations going on let you never know you can't help but wonder and Giuliani in. I just said to the New York Times that he discuss the political fallout. With trump to grant departed to me in a fourth that would indicate to me that there is some sort of conversation going on about it no doubt he. Seeing some strong signals here to meet part without directly wading into it. But look my sources in the White House are saying hold on right now we've got another trial coming up. Catherine we'll be back out they're getting tanned and kind of yet another courthouse area particularly. I'm and bite and how that is all done. Let's not you know get ahead of ourselves that president has been advised by his attorneys to wait this out and and we'll see if he. I mean you know we talk about loyalty to that's one thing that the president was tweeting about with Pontiac fort you know Tex the posing Max and Michael Collins missing. You keep an if what he's been loyal to me so again that's mine is. Palaces and should maybe even be illegal and I bet it'll I want to get Terry on on on another point conflict isn't something else that happened in this interview let's let's play the clip from this the president. Responded for the first time that we know all on camera about the the eye toward impeachment this is what it's. I don't I don't know he can impeach somebody who's done a great job. I'll tell you what if I haven't got a big said that the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor. So Terry does that stand as a defense against impeachment and war. I think it not a bad defense against impeachment if the one that that Bill Clinton raised and in a different way the weather Richard Nixon right. They don't faith that it better president or more are in fear I suppose Bill Clinton with Georgetown and Yale law degree. But but Bill Clinton said I'm doing the work of the American people on this and that country's going great we're growing. This is a ridiculous wait for the people's time the Monica Lewinsky investigation and impeachment. And that was his political argument the American people that succeeded. Richard Nixon. Was sentenced for making peace around the world with you impeachment you're gonna die basically what that the world we have much more dangerous place that is that you be poor and debt. With his argument. And and that one didn't work because his crimes were were quite significant way when exposed. So these are legitimate argument on the part of Britain aren't legal argument because impeachment at the end of the day. Is a political question. It is a question for them people down at the other end of the avenue here in congress elected politicians listening to their constituents. Is what is being charged sufficient. To overturn an election remove the president from office the president has every right to weigh in and say it's going to be a dumb move guys economies Coca along. One more thing I wanna get to today because it's a fascinating postscript code it's it to the week. Fox News got an interview with one of the jurors who served in the palm at a port trial and according to this juror says suit that they choose a trump supporter originally inclined to think diplomat at fort. Was being railroaded and that was not guilty of anything she says she was convinced by the evidence and in fact it was just one holdout juror did you. Only the actually on the villagers they feel a lot of these conversations buttoning and the judge ruled not released new pictures names they connect. Really get in touch of them but this interview was fastening she's a strong supporter and says that she convicted palm and report on all. An eighteen counts and there was that one blown out who was against them on the other ten and it makes you go back and think about on Thursday last Thursday. And when the jury asked the judge to re define reasonable down. That was because of the spirit trying to press the one that that's what it seems they were trying to preface one what that we don't and in that particular local bout is but it could have been a lot worse for them. Terry what does it CDU about the dynamics in the room and this format for have a lot more to worry about. As a result of this information that's come out from this store when he goes to trial all over again in the cup. Weeks well those are different charges but it certainly seems like he got by by the skin of his teeth and charges on which the jury did not agree. And it may encourage the prosecutors to go back at him that said two things first the president can pardon manna fort before. The next rob Boise and chart. That's what president Ford did for President Nixon. Nixon had not been charged with any crime and residents for using a power that the Supreme Court had been farmed out the civil war. The present important people before they are even chart with more and so the president president trump can do that but second and more important. I was out there with capital hike. I loved the way this jury worked through via they had to pay hold that they could not get a unanimous jury at the end of the day. But it was we're talking to the lawyers and and look at the case. They went through this very dense document driven case very methodically. Date they talked about it people who saw I think Katherine did whenever it seemed at each other's throats they were trump people on on one side. In this highly charged political environment when supposedly we can't even. Right have Thanksgiving dinner together or some such thing we believe otherwise un American and actually thing. Every day. On juries in churches on football teams and workplaces all over the country people manage to get the job done in an all American way and that's what I've felt about this Jerry. Did the job. Not bad way to to leave it there on this Thursday Terry Moran over the White House our thanks to you. Thank you to Jordan Phelps and captured Fuller's recapping this busy day that's it. For now on ABC news political director reclined you can download the the ABC news apt to be updated on all the stories all the along and we'll be back here next time. On ABC news lives.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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