Dec 15, 2017 - Politics

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."

What's next

Bolton alleges in book that Trump tied Ukraine aid to investigations

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton alleges in his forthcoming book that the president explicitly told him "he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens," the New York Times first reported.

Why this matters: The revelations present a dramatic 11th hour turn in Trump's Senate impeachment trial. They directly contradict Trump's claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to his demands for investigations into his political opponent Joe Biden.

Honoring Kobe Bryant: Sports stars, politicians and celebrities mourn NBA great

Kobe Bryant on court for the Los Angeles Lakers during the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday Night, part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center in Dallas in February 2010. Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Sports stars, politicians and celebrities paid tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a California helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on Saturday. He was 41.

What they're saying: Lakers great Shaquille O'Neal said in an Instagram post of his former teammate, "There's no words to express the pain I'm going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you brother and you will be missed."

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What's next: Trump's broader travel ban

A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP

President Trump is expected to announce an expanded travel ban this week, which would restrict immigration from seven additional countries — Nigeria, Myanmar, Sudan, Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Tanzania, per multiple reports.

  • The announcement would come on the third anniversary of Trump's original travel ban, which targeted Muslim-majority nations, per Axios' Stef Kight.