President Trump’s relentless attacks on him have been a wearying distraction for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, friends of the ex-Alabama senator tell the Associated Press. What keeps him going is his Methodist faith, support from his wife and his awareness that, at age 71, leading the Justice Department is his best chance to carry out the policy changes he long has sought. Sessions said his first year in office was marked by progress on Trump priorities: fighting crime, combating gangs and helping police. “We are doing what the people sent us here to do,” he said. Still, at a Justice Department Christmas party, one friend said the usually upbeat Sessions looked sullen and tired. “We have talked about some of the difficult times he’s had since he has been attorney general,” said the Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). “My comment to him was, as long as you’re doing the right thing, I don’t think you have anything to apologize for.”
Critics say Sessions is too loyal, dangerously politicizing his department to appease Trump. Sessions told prosecutors to look into Hillary Clinton’s activities after Trump demanded it, and he has been eager to pursue investigations into Trump grievances like media leaks. Lawmakers accuse Sessions of stonewalling committees investigating the Trump campaign by saying he doesn’t recall key events. Some say his public silence in the face of Trump’s assaults on DOJ is demoralizing to employees and threatens its independence. Sessions said it’s the department’s responsibility to identify past mistakes and that a “culture of defensiveness is not acceptable.” Sessions has endured with a courtly stoicism. If he’s frustrated, he keeps it to himself. Meeting Terry Lathan, chairwoman of the Alabama Republican Party, Sessions was more interested in what was going on back home than in complaining about job pressures.