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Trump escalates tension with Sessions, weighs firing Mueller

Donald Trump ratcheted up his criticism of Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, and a top aide said the president likely wants his attorney general gone and has recently considered firing the head of the FBI's Russia investigation.

[WASHINGTON] Donald Trump ratcheted up his criticism of Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, and a top aide said the president likely wants his attorney general gone and has recently considered firing the head of the FBI's Russia investigation.

"Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!" Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning, the latest volley in an apparent campaign to pressure Mr Sessions to quit.

Mr Trump has said he is angry that the former Alabama senator, one of the first members of Congress to support his presidential campaign, recused himself from the Justice Department's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, asked in a radio interview if Mr Trump wanted Mr Sessions gone, said that was "probably right".

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"I have an enormous amount of respect for the attorney general but I do know the president pretty well and if there's this level of tension in the relationship and that's public, you're probably right," Mr Scaramucci told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday.

"But I don't want to speak for the president on that because he's a cabinet official."

Mr Trump has also discussed firing Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia probe, Mr Scaramucci said. He said he counseled the president against such a move.

"In candid conversations with the president, I have said, 'Why would you fire him?"' Mr Scaramucci said.

Mr Sessions in March recused himself from the Russia investigation, which has swept up Mr Trump's top officials and members of his family. The decision drew the ire of Mr Trump, who told the New York Times in an interview last week that he would've never chosen Mr Sessions as attorney general if he knew he would recuse himself.

The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, then appointed Mr Mueller to lead the probe after former FBI Director James Comey arranged for a memo he wrote to be provided to the New York Times, revealing that Mr Trump had asked him to stop an investigation of Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.

The president's frustration over Mr Sessions's recusal is likely to persist as the Russia probe continues, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Fox News. Ms Sanders, who's previously said that Mr Trump retains full confidence in Mr Sessions, said on Tuesday that firing the attorney general was a decision Mr Trump could still make.

Mr Trump "is certainly frustrated and disappointed in the attorney general for recusing himself but I think if that's a decision the president wants to make he certainly will," she said Tuesday.

"That frustration hasn't gone away and I don't think it will."

Mr Sessions, 70, has so far indicated he has no intention of stepping down, saying last week that he would continue to "wholeheartedly" support Mr Trump's priorities.

"We love this job. We love this department. And I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate," he said.

The remarks only seemed to goad the president. On Monday, he called Mr Sessions "beleaguered" in a tweet.

Mr Trump and some of his supporters have tried to divert attention from the probe into potential collusion between his campaign and Russia by repeatedly bringing up his Democratic election opponent.

"Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign - 'quietly working to boost Clinton.' So where is the investigation A G ," Mr Trump said in another tweet on Tuesday, tagging Fox News host Sean Hannity in the message.

Mr Trump also criticised other top officials in the Justice Department involved in the Russia probe, saying they have conflicts of interest.

"Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got US$700,000 from H for wife!" Mr Trump tweeted Tuesday, a reference to Mrs Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe's campaign donation to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe's wife when she ran for office.

The FBI investigation into Mrs Clinton's use of a private email server concluded last year without charges being filed.

While Mr Trump spent the final weeks of the presidential campaign promising to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Mrs Clinton's email use, he reversed course after the election.

"I don't want to hurt them, I don't want to hurt them," Mr Trump said of the Clintons in November on CBS's "60 Minutes" program.

"They're good people."