Jun 7, 2017

Sessions allies angry about Spicer refusing to defend him

Andrew Harnik / AP

Jeff Sessions' close allies in the administration are infuriated that Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to publicly voice confidence in the Attorney General from the podium. During Tuesday's White House press briefing, Spicer was asked if the President still has confidence in Sessions.

"I have not had that discussion with him," Spicer said, and declined to voice confidence when asked the same question again.

Sessions allies told me that wasn't good enough, though defenders of Spicer empathize with his not wanting to get ahead of the President. Spicer didn't respond to a request for comment.

Per a close ally of the attorney general in the administration:

"Spicer's passive aggressive 'I haven't talked to the President' dance now has him refusing to defend our own attorney general... What an embarrassment. Would he answer the same way if he'd asked about Reince? I don't think so."

Why this matters: A second source who works with Sessions described the comments from the podium as "unhelpful," and said it only added to the media firestorm already building around the tense relationship between Trump and Sessions.

Behind-the-scenes: The reports of tensions between Trump and Sessions are broadly correct, and it's true, as ABC's Jonathan Karl first reported, that Sessions offered to resign. But two sources familiar with the encounter say the resignation was more a gesture than anything that was likely to come to fruition.

Some added nuance: Sessions is aware of how frustrated Trump has been about his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Sessions "basically said out of a sense of honor that he serves at the pleasure of the President and is willing to step aside if [the President] feels like he would be better served by someone else in that role," says a close Sessions ally who has been briefed on the encounter. "[The President] said no that's not necessary. And that was the extent of it."

Go deeper