Sessions fires back at Trump

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDOJ should take action against China's Twitter propaganda Lewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE in a rare statement Thursday said that the Justice Department “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”

In one of his toughest statements following criticism from President TrumpDonald John TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems MORE, Sessions defended his leadership of the Justice Department, which has come under increasing attack from the president and his allies.

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“While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action,” Sessions said in a direct response to Trump's interview on Fox.

“However, no nation has a more talented, more dedicated group of law enforcement investigators and prosecutors than the United States," Sessions said. 

Sessions’s statement came after President Trump criticized the attorney general once more, during an interview with Fox News, for his recusal from matters related to the federal investigation into Russian election interference.

Trump also criticized the Justice Department in stark terms.

“Even my enemies say that, ‘Jeff Sessions should have told you he was going to recuse himself, and then you wouldn’t have put him in,’” Trump said in an interview that aired Thursday.

Trump also said that he only selected Sessions, previously a senator from Alabama, to be his top law enforcement officer because of his “loyalty” during the campaign.

“He was on the campaign. You know, the only reason I gave him the job was because I felt loyalty,” Trump said. “He was an original supporter.”

Trump has repeatedly taken aim at Sessions and the Justice Department over special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE’s Russia investigation, which he sees as a political “witch hunt” improperly aimed against him.

A group of Republicans on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, have accused the Justice Department and FBI of bias in their handling of the probes into Russian election interference and former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe exhaustion of Democrats' anti-Trump delusions Poll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado Soft levels of support mark this year's Democratic primary MORE’s emails ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

They have seized on text messages exchanged by FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was fired by the bureau earlier this month, and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page in which both expressed critical views of Trump. Strzok worked on both the Clinton email and Russia investigations, but was removed by Mueller when an internal probe revealed the messages.

Trump said in the interview with Fox News that Sessions “never took control of the Justice Department.”

“All of my people, they're doing incredibly. But the whole thing with — going on with the Justice and FBI — when you see Strzok and his lover, Lisa Page, when you see Comey with all the lies that he's told, when you see Mueller with the conflicts,” Trump said.

“He's so conflicted. Comey's his best friend. He had a really nasty business transaction with me, which he never reported. I've been talking about it; he never reports it. I mean, you look at the bad things.”

On Tuesday, Mueller prevailed in his first court test in the investigation, when former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortTrial of ex-Obama White House counsel suddenly postponed Top Mueller probe prosecutor to join Georgetown Law as lecturer DOJ releases notes from official Bruce Ohr's Russia probe interviews MORE was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

Trump has ripped the Justice Department over its case against Manafort, while defending his former campaign chairman for not flipping.

On the same day, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple charges, and said he had made payments to two women who say they had affairs with Trump to keep them quiet. Cohen said the payments were meant to influence the 2016 election.