Jeff Sessions addresses Trump's claim that the FBI's reputation is in "tatters"

Last Updated Dec 15, 2017 5:31 PM EST

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday seemed to indicate he does not believe the FBI's reputation is in "tatters," as President Trump has expressed. 

Sessions, holding a news conference on violent crime, was asked — twice — whether he shares the president's view, as expressed in a tweet, that the FBI's reputation is in "tatters." The first time he was asked, Sessions skirted the question, but when pressed again by another reporter, Sessions seemed to part ways with the president, while saying the president is supportive of law enforcement. 

"Well I don't share the view that the FBI is not functioning at a high level all over the country," Sessions told reporters Friday. 

Sessions pointed out that Mr. Trump earlier Friday spoke at a graduation ceremony at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Mr. Trump did not speak to FBI agents, but rather, to local law enforcement officials who received training at Quantico. Sessions said the president made it clear then that he supports the FBI and their activities. 

"So I would just say it that way, and in my view, the FBI has huge national security requirements but it's also fulfilling a fabulously important role working to fight against violent crime also," Sessions said. 

Earlier Friday as he spoke to the graduates of the academy, Mr. Trump addressed MS-13 gang members directly. 

"To any member of MS-13 listening, we will find you, we will arrest you, we will jail you, we will throw you the hell out of the country," Mr. Trump said. "Who the hell wants to take care of them?...You know the jail stuff is wonderful but we have to pay for it."

The president also said criminals who kill police should get the death penalty. 

Sessions on Friday said some violent crimes, such as rape, are on the rise, and emphasized his Justice Department's work to fight them. 

"We will not cede a community, a block or a street corner to violent thugs" who peddle drugs on street corners or gangs, Sessions said.