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The brief history of how Trump turned on Sessions

President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo: Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump called Attorney General Jeff Sessions "DISGRACEFUL" today, adding to a growing list of examples of Trump publicly criticizing his own staffers.

Why it matters: Continuing to attack one of his own Cabinet members in this way, and especially when it's explicitly in reaction to Bob Mueller's Russia probe, is not normal.

Be smart: Trump continues to publicly attack Sessions and question the job he's doing as AG, but it's not clear he'll do anything about it. He often talks about replacing current staff members, as Axios' Jonathan Swan has reported, but he doesn't always follow through.

Timeline:

  • Feb. 28, 2016: "He's really the expert as far as I'm concerned on borders, on so many things."
  • Nov. 18, 2016: "He is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great Attorney General and US Attorney in the state of Alabama."
  • Jan. 30, 2017: Trump emails the Washington Post that Sessions is “a truly fine person” who is "so highly respected by everyone in both Washington, D.C., and around the country."
  • Mar. 2, 2017: "Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately..."
  • July 19, 2017: "Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else."
  • July 24, 2017: "So why aren't the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?"
  • July 25, 2017: Axios reports Trump called a longtime political associate and asked out of the blue: "What would happen if I fired Sessions?"
    • Trump tweets asking Sessions why he's not investigating "Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign."
    • He tweets again: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!"
    • To the Wall Street Journal: "[I]t's not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement. But I'm very disappointed in Jeff Sessions."
  • July 26, 2017: Trump tweets asking why Sessions didn't fire acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
  • Feb. 21, 2018: Days after Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for violating criminal law to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election, Trump tweets: "If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation? Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!"
  • Feb. 28, 2018: The Republican memo was released on Feb. 2, which alleged the DOJ and FBI's mishandling of FISA applications and surveillance. "Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!"

Don't forget: Sessions was one of Trump's earliest supporters during the campaign (endorsing him in February 2016). He has stood by Trump's side ever since, often moving forward on many of Trump's most controversial policy proposals, like the travel ban, stricter drug sentencing, immigration, and cracking down on administrative leaks.

Go deeper: See how Mueller's timeline aligns with Trump's evolving mood on Sessions.