US President Donald Trump says Attorney General Jeff Sessions is safe in his job at least until the November congressional elections, Bloomberg News has reported.
"I just would love to have him do a great job," Bloomberg quoted Mr Trump as saying. It said the president declined to comment when asked whether he would keep Mr Sessions in office beyond November.
Mr Trump has repeatedly attacked Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign. After the recusal, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to lead the probe, which Mr Trump has called a "witch hunt."
Asked in the Bloomberg News interview whether he would comply if Mr Mueller issued a subpoena for him to appear for questioning, Mr Trump said: "I'll see what happens."
"I view it differently," Bloomberg quoted Mr Trump as saying. "I view it as an illegal investigation" because "great scholars" have said that "there should never have been a special counsel".
The president has repeatedly criticized Mr Sessions over the Russia probe and resumed the attacks via Twitter last week, saying the attorney general had never fully exerted control over the Justice Department.
Mr Sessions, in a rare rebuttal, responded that he took control of the department the day he became attorney general and would not allow it to be "improperly influenced by political considerations."
Mr Trump said in a Twitter post on Saturday that Mr Sessions "doesn't understand what is happening underneath his command position." He charged that Mr Mueller's probe was "highly conflicted" and that "real corruption goes untouched."
Some Republican lawmakers have predicted Mr Trump would replace Sessions, a former US senator, after the November elections.
Senator Lindsey Graham, who is close to Mr Trump and a defender of Mr Sessions, said last week he believed Mr Trump would appoint a new attorney general but should wait until the elections, in which Republicans are seeking to maintain control of both the House of Representatives and Senate.