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Sessions gives a speech in Washington, DC. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a rare public statement Thursday in which he appeared to push back against President Trump, hours after Trump criticized him in a Fox News interview for failing to take control of the Justice Department.

"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, in a statement posted to Twitter by DOJ spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores.

The backdrop: After being asked by Fox News' Ainsley Earhardt whether he would consider firing Sessions, Trump said...

“I put in an attorney general who never took control of the Justice Department ... I wanted to stay uninvolved but when everyone sees what’s going on in the Justice Department — I always put 'justice' now in quotes — it’s a very, very sad day. Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn’t have done.”

Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) also signaled Thursday that Trump may fire Sessions after the November midterm elections:

  • Graham told reporters: "The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in ... I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice. Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”
  • Grassley said in an interview that he’d be able to schedule hearings to confirm a new attorney general, despite previously stating he was too busy to address the issue, per Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, John Cornyn (R-Tex.) defended Sessions while speaking to reporters:

  • “I think it would be bad for the country, it would be bad for the president, it would be bad for the Department of Justice for him to be forced out under these circumstances. So I hope he stays the course and I hope cooler heads prevail."

Full statement:

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

What to watch: Sessions is at the White House this afternoon for a meeting with Trump, Jared Kushner and Brooke Rollins to discuss prison and sentencing reform.

Go deeper: Trump says" flipping" for a reduced sentence "almost ought to be illegal."

Go deeper

27 mins ago - Health

Student's death renews calls for schools to stock opioid overdose drug

Photo: Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A Connecticut student's death has renewed calls for schools to stock and administer naloxone, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Why it matters: U.S. drug overdose fatalities reached six figures in a 12-month period for the first time in November, and synthetic or natural opioids were the cause of a majority of the overdoses.

28 mins ago - Sports

Olympians avoiding COVID at all costs ahead of Beijing Games

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

10 days out from the Olympics, athletes around the world are battening down the hatches in hopes of making it to Beijing COVID-free.

Why it matters: The Beijing bubble — a closed-loop system meant to shut off the outside world entirely — is the strictest ever created for a global sporting event.

32 mins ago - World

DOJ's China Initiative under scrutiny as cases fall apart

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The tide of public opinion may be turning against the Justice Department's China Initiative, as more cases fall apart and more of the researchers charged are speaking out.

The big picture: Chinese government-linked economic and industrial espionage in the United States is a real concern, but the China Initiative's flaws may be overshadowing the problem it was intended to address.