PHOTO: T.J. KIRKPATRICK FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump expressed his disappointment in Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday and questioned the importance of Mr. Sessions’s early endorsement of Mr. Trump’s candidacy, but the president declined to say whether he planned to fire him.
“It’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “I’m very disappointed in Jeff Sessions.”
Asked whether he would remove Mr. Sessions from office, Mr. Trump said he was disappointed in the attorney general ’s decision to recuse himself from the probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The president has repeatedly criticized Mr. Sessions in recent interviews and on Twitter.
“I’m just looking at it,” the president said when asked how long he could continue to criticize Mr. Sessions without firing him. “I’ll just see. It’s a very important thing.”
Mr. Trump said he had no immediate plans to make any other changes to his top staff.
In the interview, he was joined by his daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci and Hope Hicks, the White House director of strategic communications.
Mr. Trump said he was “very happy” with the addition of Mr. Scaramucci, whose appointment was announced Friday. Mr. Scaramucci ordered one junior staffer in the communications office fired earlier on Tuesday as part of a campaign to stop leaks from the White House.
He dismissed Mr. Scaramucci’s decision during the presidential campaign to endorse two other Republican candidates before backing Mr. Trump. He said Mr. Scaramucci offered his support before he was ready to enter the race. “His first choice was Trump,” Mr. Trump said. “I think it’s important to say that.”
Mr. Sessions was the first U.S. senator to back Mr. Trump, a decision that was seen as a major blow to rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas). The endorsement came ahead of a handful of primary contests in Southern states with large numbers of evangelical voters—including Alabama, Mr. Sessions’s home—that Mr. Cruz’s campaign had banked on winning.
Mr. Sessions’s endorsement came at a rally in Alabama, one of the biggest of the campaign.
“When they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday , recalling the endorsement . “I had 40,000 people. He was a senator from Alabama. I won the state by a lot, massive numbers. A lot of the states I won by massive numbers. But he was a senator, he looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ’What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me. So it’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement. But I’m very disappointed in Jeff Sessions.”
Mr. Trump blamed Mr. Sessions’ recusal on the Russia probe as the reason the Justice Department named Robert Mueller as special counsel in charge of the investigation. Mr. Mueller’s appointment came immediately after Mr. Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, who had been overseeing the investigation.
According to a January report from the U.S. intelligence community, Russia’s interference was directed at the highest levels of its government. Its tactics included hacking state election systems; infiltrating and leaking information from party committees and political strategists; and disseminating through social media and other outlets negative stories about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and positive ones about Mr. Trump, the report said. Russia has denied meddling. The investigation is also looking at whether anyone on Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians, which Mr. Trump has denied, characterizing the investigation as a “witch hunt.”
Mr Trump suggested Tuesday that those intelligence leaks that revealed his team’s contacts with Russian officials were coming from people who supported his Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.
“They’ve lost an election and they came up with this as an excuse,” Mr. Trump said. “And the only ones that are laughing are the Democrats and the Russians. And if Jeff Sessions didn’t recuse himself, we wouldn’t even be talking about this subject.”
Updated July 25, 2017 3:15 p.m. ET