White House rejects Sessions recusal calls

The White House is dismissing calls for Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump's no racist — he's an equal opportunity offender Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question 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 PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanFighting the opioid epidemic: Congress can't just pass laws, but must also push to enforce them The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems 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 ChaffetzHouse Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke GOP senators decline to criticize Acosta after new Epstein charges 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.