Trump says he wouldn’t have picked Sessions if he knew he’d recuse himself in Russia probe

Last Updated Jul 19, 2017 9:37 PM EDT

President Trump said he never would have picked Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he’d known he would recuse himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian meddling. 

In a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times Wednesday, Mr. Trump also accused fired FBI Director James Comey of trying to use a dossier of compromising information as leverage to keep his job. The interview is likely to only add fuel to the Russia story, even as the White House attempts to downplay it and focus on things like health care and jobs. 

“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” the president said in the 50-minute interview. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”

Sessions declined to comment on the story. 

Mr. Trump also said he believes Comey told him about the dossier to make it clear he had leverage over the president. Mr. Trump fired Comey in May, and the White House offered conflicting explanation for his removal. 

“In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there,” Mr. Trump said. Asked if he thought Comey was using the dossier as leverage, Mr. Trump replied, “Yeah, I think so. In retrospect.”

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The White House first said Comey mishandled the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, but Mr. Trump later said he thought of the “made-up” Russia story when he fired his former FBI director.   

Mr. Trump also said Comey’s testimony before Congress earlier this year was “loaded up with lies.”

“I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff,” Mr. Trump said. “He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, OK?”

The president also derided former FBI Director Robert Mueller, appointed by Deputy Attorney General Jeff Sessions to be special counsel in the FBI’s Russia investigation, saying Mueller has many “conflicts.”

“He was up here and he wanted the job,” Mr. Trump said. After he was named special counsel, “I said, ‘What the hell is this all about?’ Talk about conflicts. But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”

The special counsel’s office had no comment, nor did Mueller personally. 

CBS News’ Andy Triay contributed to this report. 

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