US & Canada

Sessions says Trump criticism 'hurtful'

President Donald Trump speaks with Attorney General Jeff Sessions as they attend the National Peace Officers Memorial Service in May in Washington, DC. Image copyright Reuters

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said Donald Trump's recent criticism of him is "hurtful", but that the president is a "strong leader".

Mr Trump has expressed disappointment with Mr Sessions for recusing himself from the inquiry into alleged Russia meddling in the US election.

A White House spokesman went as far as to suggest Mr Trump was considering firing the country's top prosecutor.

But Mr Sessions appeared to defend the president despite the recent slights.

"He is determined to move this country in the direction that he believes it needs to go to make it great again," Mr Sessions said of the president to Fox News on Thursday.

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Media captionTrump once called Sessions "as smart as you get".

"And he has had a lot of criticism and he's steadfast determined to get his job done and he wants all of us to do our job and that's what I intend to do," he added.

The former Alabama senator also told the Associated Press on Thursday it had not been the "best week" for his relationship with Mr Trump, but that the president had every right to look for another attorney general.

"I serve at the pleasure of the president. I've understood that from the day I took the job," he said in El Salvador.

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Media caption'There will be holy hell to pay' if Sessions fired

The president has publicly berated Mr Sessions in recent days, saying the former Alabama senator should not have recused himself.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the probe and has also come under attack by the president, is reportedly investigating Mr Trump for possible obstruction of justice, both in the firing of former FBI chief James Comey and whether he tried to end an inquiry into sacked national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Mr Sessions stepped away from the inquiry earlier this year after he failed to disclose a meeting with the Kremlin's envoy during his confirmation hearing.

The president has denied any wrongdoing, calling the investigation a "witch hunt".

Earlier this week, Mr Trump said he was "disappointed" with Mr Sessions, calling him "beleagured".

He also tweeted that Mr Sessions had "taken a VERY weak position" on the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

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Media captionMr Trump's supporters in Ohio say it's time for Mr Sessions to step aside

In an interview with the New York Times, the president expressed regret about appointing Mr Sessions, adding he "should have never recused himself".

Earlier on Thursday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham came to the defence of Mr Sessions, telling reporters there would "be holy hell to pay" if the top prosecutor was fired.

"It's unfair to Jeff Sessions, he's a good man who deserves better, and some of the suggestions the president is making go way beyond what's acceptable," Mr Graham said.