- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2017

President Trump heaped praise on his Homeland Security Secretary and acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Friday as he spoke about efforts to dismantle the violent street gang MS-13.

But one member of Trump’s cabinet receiving nary a mention was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was deep in the heart of MS-13 territory Friday in El Salvador meeting with his Central American counterparts about cooperation in combating transnational gangs.

It’s unclear whether Mr. Trump’s neglect to mention the attorney general’s efforts was meant as a slight, but the president has been critical recently of Mr. Sessions and lashed out in a series of stinging rebukes to air his disappointment.

The president’s last public comments about Mr. Sessions were made Wednesday, when he critiqued his failure to replace the acting FBI director.

Mr. Trump spoke before a crowd of law enforcement officials in Long Island, New York, where he said the gang had transformed peaceful communities into “bloodstained killing fields.”

MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, is blamed for 17 homicides in the Long Island area since January 2017. The gang was formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by immigrants from El Salvador but has spread to become active across the United States and entrenched in Central America following deportation of gang leaders.

During Friday’s visit to Long Island, a community Mr. Sessions visited in April to discuss gang violence, Mr. Trump praised the acting director of ICE, Thomas Homan, singling him out for his effective work and gruff demeanor.

“Tom is determined to rid our nation of cartels and criminals who are praying on our citizens, and I can only say to Tom keep up the great work,” Mr. Trump said. “He is a tough guy. A tough cookie. Somebody said the other day they saw him on television… they said he looks very nasty and mean. I said that’s what I’m looking for.”

Mr. Trump went on to praise his Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, calling him “one of our great stars” and noting the reduction in illegal immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mr. Sessions has largely laid low while Mr. Trump doled out the attacks, which included his disappointment that the attorney general recused himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking to The Associated Press Friday from El Salvador, Mr. Sessions said he hoped his efforts to fight gang violence might help repair his strained relationship with Mr. Trump and noted the two shared a commitment on the issue.

Asked whether he thought the MS-13 fight will help his relationship with the president, Mr. Sessions said, “I hope so.”

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