BOSTON (CBS) – If President Trump expected Attorney General Jeff Sessions to join his crusade to discredit ousted FBI Director James Comey during his testimony Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, he was surely disappointed.
Other than disputing Comey’s claim that Sessions seemed helpless to rein in the president, there was none of that in Sessions’ remarks. He referred to Comey as an experienced figure who he trusted to handle his duties properly. And while he did criticize Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail fiasco last year – which you’ll recall was the official White House explanation for why Comey was canned until the president admitted it was about the Russia probe – Sessions passed up multiple opportunities to join in the Comey-bashing.
That’s yet another example of something we saw in last week’s committee questioning of Comey – pro-Trump Republicans are willing to challenge the unproven implication of collusion with the Russians and defend their own honor, but seem unwilling to parrot the latest White House talking points. Sessions got angry several times when his integrity was questioned, but was noticeably less emotional when it came to defending the president.
That leaves Mr. Trump right where he was yesterday, furious over the ongoing distraction all this causes, and likely still unhappy with Sessions, who he’s reportedly accused of not doing enough to defend him in the Russia matter. Sessions was eager to defend himself today but not so eager to exonerate the president, simply refusing to answer most of the questions that involved him.
There was a significant related development Tuesday. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, now running the Russia show since Sessions recused himself, told another committee he wouldn’t be pressured to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller without good cause, yet another signal from a Trump administration figure that they will not risk their personal reputations to carry political water for the White House.