Holder: Trump's attacks on Sessions were 'unprecedented'
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Former Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday night called President Trump's public venting about his Justice Department chief Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOne quick asylum fix: How Garland can help domestic violence survivors Biden fills immigration court with Trump hires Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE "unprecedented."

"Unprecedented, unwise and hopefully not helpful to the president," Holder said on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."

Trump lambasted Sessions on Twitter over the summer for publicly recusing himself from overseeing the Justice Department's Russia probe, which includes looking into allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in an attempt to fix the outcome of the election.

Sessions reportedly went so far as to offer to resign amid the public insults.

Holder suggested that Trump could have lashed out at his own attorney general out of paranoia that Sessions is a possible threat against him.


"It could be argued that it betrays a mindset of concern. It might be said to evince some consciousness of guilt or some concern that those who are acting independently might do something to him that is negative in nature and if his appointed attorney general was still in charge, he might not be in as bad a position," he said, adding that the president's lawyers were likely "apoplectic" about such exchanges between the two leaders.

Holder said he is concerned because it indicates Trump does not understand that Sessions has a responsibility to be independent and "enforce the laws."

"That actually worries me because I think it betrays a lack of understanding on the part of the president about what the role of the attorney general has to be. You can't go at the AG in that way. If you truly understand the independent role that he should play within the administration: There are going to be things that an attorney general is going to do that the president doesn't agree with," Holder said.

Holder also expressed disbelief at reports that say Trump interviewed candidates before nominating them to be U.S. attorneys, also calling the move "unprecedented" that potential nominees would skip the Justice Department and talk to the White House.

"Unprecedented. The way it was done in the Obama administration and the Clinton administration as well, and I think the Bush administrations: The highest level person that you spoke to as an incoming U.S. attorney was in fact the attorney general. Nobody went to talk to the White House," Holder told Maddow, adding that this traditional structure aimed to "ensure that independence." 

"A U.S. attorney is not supposed to have any contacts with the White House, except through the Justice Department," he continued.

He added that despite deviating from the past norms, Trump may not have done anything "legally inappropriate."

When asked whether he has any plans for running for office, Holder, a top ally of former President Obama, didn't dismiss the possibility.

"I don't know," he answered, saying he is fully focused on his anti-gerrymandering project right now.