Holder: Sessions has weakened himself as attorney general by ‘taking what he has taken’

Former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderTrump official criticizes ex-Clinton spokesman over defunding police tweet Obama to speak about George Floyd in virtual town hall GOP group launches redistricting site MORE on Tuesday said that President TrumpDonald John TrumpWayfair refutes QAnon-like conspiracy theory that it's trafficking children Stone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Federal appeals court rules Trump admin can't withhold federal grants from California sanctuary cities MORE’s rhetoric critical of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Runoff elections in Texas, Alabama set for Tuesday Sessions fights for political life in Alabama runoff The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - All eyes on Florida as daily COVID-19 cases hit 15K MORE has had a weakening “effect on the institution.” 

Holder, who served under former President Obama, said that he “could not have taken” attacks on him the way Sessions has taken attacks on the DOJ — and himself personally — by Trump, adding that he thinks the attorney general needs to push back.

“I could not have taken as much as he has taken. I think by taking what he has taken, he not only weakens himself as attorney general, it has an effect on the institution, and at some point, you have to say to the president, ‘no.’ You’ve got to respond to the president,” Holder said Tuesday night on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.”

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“These are extraordinary things. I’ve never seen a president talk to an attorney general in the way that this president has spoken to his attorney general. But I think you have to respond in extraordinary ways, always thinking about how you’re going to protect the institution,” he added.

Trump and his allies have piled on the DOJ and Sessions ever since the attorney general recused himself from overseeing any investigation of Trump’s presidential campaign, including the one being conducted by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE to probe possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and obstruction of justice.

Trump has frequently lashed out at Sessions for the recusal. 

In a June tweet, the president said he would have "picked someone else” to be attorney general if he knew that Sessions would recuse himself.

“The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn’t tell me he was going to recuse himself...I would have quickly picked someone else. So much time and money wasted, so many lives ruined...and Sessions knew better than most that there was No Collusion!” Trump tweeted in June.

Sessions has also been reported to be a target of Trump's ire behind the scenes.

Bob Woodward reported in his recently released book “Fear: Trump in the White House” that the president has mocked Sessions for his southern accent and called him “mentally retarded.”

Holder defended Sessions’s recusal, saying it was “the appropriate thing to do” and said the attorney general’s job is not to protect the president.

“I didn’t see my job as protecting the president, my job was to serve the people of the United States. But the other reality is I didn’t have to do anything to protect Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama: 'Voting by mail shouldn't be a partisan issue' How cable TV and sensationalized crime reporting led to 'cancel culture' Judge again blocks US from resuming federal executions MORE, this president clearly thinks there are things he needs to be protected from and he wants his attorney general to do it, which is inappropriate,” he said.