AP source: Trump had lawyer urge Sessions not to recuse self
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump directed his White House counsel to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Justice Department's investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The conversation between Don McGahn, the president's White House counsel, and Sessions took place on the president's orders and occurred just before the attorney general announced that he would step aside from the ongoing inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to a person with knowledge of the interaction. Two other people confirmed details of the conversation between McGahn and Sessions.
All three people spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press to avoid publicly discussing an ongoing investigation.
The episode is known to special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors and is likely of interest to them as they look into whether Trump's actions as president, including the May firing of FBI Director James Comey, amount to improper efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation. Investigators recently concluded a round of interviews with current and former White House officials, including McGahn and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.
The New York Times first reported Trump had McGahn lobby Sessions against a recusal.
Reached Thursday evening, Trump personal attorney John Dowd said, "I know nothing about that," and hung up. Jay Sekulow, another of the president's personal lawyers, did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.
The White House also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sessions announced on March 2 that he would recuse himself from the Russia probe. He said at the time that he should not oversee any investigation into a campaign for which he was an active and vocal supporter, though the recusal also followed the revelation that he had had two previously undisclosed interactions during the 2016 campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States. At his Jan. 10 confirmation hearing, he had said he had had no meetings with Russians.