- REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
- President Donald Trump reportedly pressed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rethink recusing himself from the Russia probe at least four times.
- Trump has repeatedly erupted over Sessions’ recusal, telling advisers he needs an attorney general who will protect him. He also once reportedly wondered why he couldn’t have “my guys” at the “Trump Justice Department” do his bidding.
- Most recently, Trump said on Twitter that he wished he had tapped someone else for the role.
- Trump’s frustration with Sessions and his reported efforts to coax the attorney general to walk back his recusal are of key interest to the special counsel Robert Mueller as he investigates whether Trump sought to hamper the Russia probe.
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President Donald Trump pressed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rethink his recusal from the FBI’s Russia investigation at least four times, Axios reported this week.
Three of those conversations occurred in person and one was over the phone, the report said.
Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe after it emerged last year that he failed to disclose some of his contacts with Russia-linked individuals during his Senate confirmation hearing in January 2017.
Sessions’ move infuriated the president, who once reportedly mused about why he couldn’t have “my guys” at the “Trump Justice Department” do his bidding.
The Russia investigation, spearheaded by the special counsel Robert Mueller, has two broad threads as it relates to Trump: whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to help tilt the 2016 US election in his favor, and whether Trump later sought to obstruct justice when he learned of the investigation’s existence after taking office.
Of key interest to Mueller in the obstruction case are Trump’s repeated efforts to coax the attorney general to reassert control over the Russia probe, which the president has denounced as a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
In addition to reportedly pushing Sessions to reverse his recusal, both personally and through surrogates like White House counsel Don McGahn, Trump has also publicly attacked the attorney general amid his frustration, calling him “weak” and “beleaguered.” Multiple media outlets have additionally reported that Trump has erupted at his aides over Sessions on several occasions since last year, saying he needs an attorney general who will protect him.
Most recently, he wrote on Twitter that he wished he had tapped someone else for the role.
Shortly after, he quoted the controversial former federal prosecutor Joseph diGenova, who said Sessions’ recusal “was an unforced betrayal of the President of the United States.”
Trump was poised to tap diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing, to represent him in the Russia probe, but the couple withdrew from consideration in March, citing conflicts of interest because Toensing represents another witness in the Russia probe. But the president routinely seeks informal legal advice from diGenova and Toensing, both of whom are staples in the conservative media and frequently call for Mueller’s and Sessions’ dismissal.
Mueller, meanwhile, is said to be close to wrapping up the obstruction case he has been building against Trump since last year. The case stems primarily from Trump’s decision to fire FBI director James Comey last May, but Trump’s actions and statements regarding Sessions and his recusal make up a significant thread in the investigation.
The special counsel’s team is currently in talks with Trump’s lawyers about arranging an interview with the president, which is likely the final step before Mueller completes the investigation.
It’s unclear whether prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to charge the president with obstructing justice. But because current Justice Department policy states that a sitting president cannot be indicted, Mueller is said to be preparing a report of his findings that he will eventually submit to deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein will then decide whether to release the report to Congress and the public.
Trump’s defense team, led by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, appears to be gearing up for the possibility of a scathing report from the special counsel about Trump’s actions. To that end, the president and Giuliani have in recent weeks embarked on a public relations war against Mueller and Trump’s perceived enemies at the Justice Department.
“We’re focusing on the fact that we’re not trying this case to a jury,” Giuliani told Business Insider this week. “Our jury is the American people. If they decide that the president is being badly treated, there’s no way any Congress will impeach him.”
Earlier, Giuliani told reporters that while Trump has complained about Sessions and has “some grievances” against the attorney general, the president will not fire Sessions before the Russia investigation is over.