White House rejects Sessions recusal calls

The White House is dismissing calls for Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsGingrich: Media was right, special elections were a referendum Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Overnight Tech: Uber CEO resigns | Trump's Iowa tech trip | Dems push Sessions to block AT&T-Time Warner deal | Lawmakers warned on threat to election systems | MORE to recuse himself from an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“There’s nothing to recuse himself,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in an interview with Fox News that aired late Thursday morning.

“He was 100 percent straight with the committee, and I think that people [who] are choosing to play partisan politics with this should be ashamed of themselves," he said.

Sessions is facing mounting pressure from top Republicans to remove himself from the Russia probe following reports that he spoke with Moscow’s U.S. envoy twice last year, a disclosure that appeared to contradict sworn testimony during his confirmation hearing.

Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanThe Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill What’s in the Senate healthcare bill Senate GOP releases ObamaCare repeal bill with deep cuts to Medicaid MORE (R-Ohio) called the former Alabama senator a “friend” but said “it would be best for him and for the country to recuse himself from the [Department of Justice] Russia probe.”

That sentiment was echoed by House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe Hill's 12:30 Report Chaffetz: Trump administration 'almost worse' than Obama's on transparency Utah GOP narrows field for Chaffetz seat MORE (R-Utah).

“AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself,” he tweeted Thursday.

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Top Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schemer (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), have said Sessions should resign.

The attorney general has denied that he misled lawmakers during his confirmation hearings, saying the conversations occurred in his capacity as a member of the Armed Services Committee and not as a President Trump campaign surrogate.

He did, however, offer in an interview with NBC News to recuse himself “whenever it's appropriate.” 

The new allegations have thrown a wrench into Trump’s plan to harness momentum generated by his well-received joint address to Congress on moving forward on key agenda items, including ObamaCare repeal and tax reform.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill were bombarded with questions about Sessions Thursday morning. And the White House was once again forced to confront allegations about ties to Russia that have dogged Trump’s first month in office.

The Sessions revelation comes just over two weeks after retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn resigned as Trump's national security adviser after he misled Vice President Pence and others about his conversations with the same envoy, Sergey Kislyak.