President Donald Trump ramped up his criticism of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions this weekend, whom he now claims was "not mentally qualified" for the post Trump handpicked him to fill in 2017 before he fired him the next year.
Trump made his latest remarks about his former political ally during an interview Sunday on Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson after he and his former attorney general had multiple back-and-forths on Twitter over the last couple of days.
"He's not mentally qualified to be attorney general," said Trump, 73. "He was the biggest problem. I mean, look, Jeff Sessions put people in place that were a disaster."
Sessions was one of the first major lawmakers in the U.S. to endorse Trump during his 2016 presidential bid and was given a position in his administration after the election, leaving behind a Senate seat in Alabama.
But Sessions drew the ire of the president after recusing himself from the investigation into Trump's campaign connections with Russia during the 2016 election, which led to Robert Mueller's special counsel probe.
Trump has long viewed Sessions' recusal from the investigation as a form of political and personal betrayal.
"The only reason I gave him the job is because I felt loyalty,” Trump has said about Sessions, according to the Washington Post.
Sessions, 73, is currently running in a tight primary race for the Republican nomination for his old Senate seat in Alabama, which he resigned in order to serve in the Trump administration.
The president endorsed Sessions' primary opponent, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, and has actively campaigned against Sessions in the election.
Sessions and Tuberville will run against one another in a run-off election on July 14, with the primary winner then running against Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, in the November general election. (Jones won the Alabama seat in a special election in 2017, narrowly defeating Roy Moore, a former judge whose candidacy had been swamped by controversy.)
In recent days, Trump and Sessions have engaged in a highly unusual public back-and-forth — on Twitter, the president's favorite website.
Trump tweeted last week that Sessions had "let our Country down" and claimed he "ran for the hills" by recusing himself from the Russia investigation, while Sessions fired back by telling Trump his recusal was "required by law."
"I did my duty & you're damn fortunate I did," Sessions tweeted in response to Trump last week. "It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration."
.@realdonaldtrump Look, I know your anger, but recusal was required by law. I did my duty & you're damn fortunate I did. It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration. Your personal feelings don't dictate who Alabama picks as their senator, the people of Alabama do. https://t.co/QQKHNAgmiE— Jeff Sessions (@jeffsessions) May 23, 2020
Win McNamee/Getty Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions shakes President Donald Trump's hand inside the Oval Office after swearing Sessions in as attorney general on Feb. 9, 2017.
Win McNamee/Getty President Donald Trump puts his hand on the shoulder of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions before he was sworn into the post on Feb. 9, 2017, at the White House.
The former attorney general has typically restrained himself from firing back at Trump. Over the weekend, however, Sessions tweeted at Trump five times after the president criticized him.
"I will never apologize for following the law and serving faithfully and with honor," Sessions tweeted at Trump, again referencing the Russia investigation. "Neither of us knew about the phony investigation into our campaign until after I was sworn in."
Trump suggested Sessions drop out of the run-off election against Tuberville, the former Auburn University football coach who Trump contends will make "a GREAT Senator."
Sessions hasn't hinted at dropping out of the race, however. Instead, the Republican candidate has promoted his relationship with Trump during the Alabama election — against the president's wishes.
The New York Times reported that Sessions sent out campaign mailers to Alabama voters earlier this year which referenced Trump 22 times.
Trump's 2020 presidential campaign sent a letter to Sessions in early April demanding that he stop aligning himself with the president, saying that it was "delusional" for Sessions to present himself as an ally.
“We only assume your campaign is doing this to confuse President Trump’s loyal supporters in Alabama into believing the president supports your candidacy in the upcoming primary runoff election," the Trump campaign wrote, according to the Times. "Nothing could be further from the truth.”