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US attorney general says he's staying and will fight for Trump agenda

US attorney general Jeff Sessions has said he intends to stay in the job and fight for President Donald Trump's agenda.

Mr Sessions said he and Mr Trump have a "harmony of values and beliefs".

His remarks come after a week of being branded weak and ineffective in public by Mr Trump.

Mr Sessions spoke about his job during a trip to El Salvador to increase international cooperation against the MS-13 gang.

The former Alabama senator said he serves at the pleasure of the president and will remain at the head of the justice department until Mr Trump decides otherwise.

Mr Trump remains upset that Mr Sessions recused himself months ago from the investigation into interactions between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

Mr Sessions said of Mr Trump: "If he wants to make a change, he has every right.

"I serve at the pleasure of the president. I've understood that from the day I took the job."

Congressional Republicans have rallied around Mr Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, and expressed mortification at the humiliation visited on him by Mr Trump in several interviews and a series of tweets.

As well as being upset at Mr Sessions' recusal, the president is also annoyed that his attorney general has not taken a tougher line against his defeated Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned on Thursday that there would be "holy hell" to pay if Mr Trump sacks Mr Sessions.

After meeting his Salvadoran counterpart, Mr Sessions said he is "thrilled" with the support he has received.

"I believe we are running a great department of justice," he said.

"I believe with great confidence that I understand what is needed in the department of justice and what President Trump wants. I share his agenda."

He acknowledged, with considerable understatement, "it hasn't been my best week ... for my relationship with the president".

The two have not spoken recently, he said, but added: "I look forward to the opportunity to chat with him about it."

In Congress, Republican senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska went to the senate floor on Thursday to discourage Mr Trump from making a so-called recess appointment while the US senate is away at the end of August - should that be the president's intention.

A recess appointment would allow Mr Trump to appoint anyone of his choosing and bypass senate confirmation until 2019 if the senate recesses for 10 days or more in August.

Mr Sasse said: "If you're thinking of making a recess appointment to push out the attorney general, forget about it.

"The presidency isn't a bull, and this country isn't a china shop."

The previous evening, the Republican chairman of the senate judiciary committee, Iowa senator Chuck Grassley, tweeted that he would not be holding a confirmation hearing for a new attorney general if Mr Trump decides to take that route.

Although largely deferential to a president who seems bent on tormenting him, Mr Sessions stood his ground on his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

He had bowed out of any involvement in that probe after he acknowledged meeting with Russia's ambassador during the campaign.

"Knowing the integrity that's required of the attorney general, I believe I made the right decision," he told Fox News.

He said his recusal was in keeping with the rule of law "and an attorney general who doesn't follow the law is not very effective in leading the department of justice".

The White House has most recently appeared to be trying to calm down the notion that Mr Trump wants Mr Sessions out - without offering a rousing endorsement of him.

"The president wants him to do his job, do it properly," the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said on Thursday.

"He wants him to be tough on the intelligence leaks and he wants him to move forward."

AP

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