8 targeted House Republicans call for Sessions recusal

At least eight House Republicans who are Democratic targets in 2018 are calling on Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLisa Page sues DOJ, FBI over alleged privacy violations Sessions leads GOP Senate primary field in Alabama, internal poll shows Trump rebukes FBI chief Wray over inspector general's Russia inquiry MORE to recuse himself from any investigations into Russian involvement in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as pressure mounts from both parties for him to step aside.

GOP Reps. Brian Mast (Fla.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), Martha McSally (Ariz.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), Ryan Costello (Pa.), Barbara Comstock (Va.) and Carlos Curbelo (Fla.) have all been named as targets by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). With the exception of freshman Mast, all are in districts won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats seek leverage for trial Davis: Trump vs. Clinton impeachments – the major differences Sharice Davids to vote for Trump impeachment articles: 'The facts are uncontested' MORE in November.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), a House Intelligence Committee member who is also on the DCCC list, also joined the calls.

All eight have said Sessions should recuse himself from any probes the Department of Justice (DOJ) conducts related to Russia, after reports emerged that he did not disclose to Congress contact he had with the country’s ambassador during the 2016 campaign.

Democrats are hoping they can link Republicans in swing districts to the president and harness the energy from anti-Trump backlash as they seek to regain the House majority next year.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzElijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House 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 MORE (R-Utah) have also called for Sessions to recuse himself and to clarify his statements before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

GOP Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Lawmakers call for investigation into program meant to help student loan borrowers with disabilities Senators sound alarm on dangers of ransomware attacks after briefing MORE (Ohio) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats spend big to put Senate in play Senate confirms Trump's 50th circuit judge, despite 'not qualified' rating Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial MORE (Maine) did the same.

At issue is whether Sessions deliberately misled Congress during his confirmation hearings about contact with Russian officials.

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenLankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman The job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' Take Trump literally and seriously in Minnesota MORE (D-Minn.) asked Sessions during his confirmation hearing to be attorney general what he would do if he learned of evidence that Trump campaign associates were in contact with the Russian government.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians,” Sessions replied.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyHorowitz offers troubling picture of FBI's Trump campaign probe Horowitz: 'We found no bias' in decision to open probe Horowitz: 'Very concerned' about FBI leaks to Giuliani MORE (D-Vt.) also asked Sessions — via a written questionnaire — if he had been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election before or after Election Day.

Sessions had a one-word answer: “No.”

However, The Washington Post first reported Wednesday night that he spoke with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential race.

Sessions said earlier Thursday he would recuse himself if it’s “appropriate.”

Sessions “needs to clarify any misconceptions from his confirmation hearing on the matter,” Comstock, who represents a swing district in Northern Virginia that Clinton won by 9.9 points, said in a statement. “Attorneys General have recused themselves in the past like former Obama Administration Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderThe shifting impeachment positions of Jonathan Turley Pelosi refers to Sinclair's Rosen as 'Mr. Republican Talking Points' over whistleblower question Krystal Ball: Billionaires panicking over Sanders candidacy MORE in 2013.”

In May of that year, the Obama attorney general removed himself from involvement in a DOJ leak probe that secretly seized phone records of Associated Press journalists.

Curbelo, who represents a competitive South Florida district that Clinton won by 16.2 points, said Sessions’s alleged meetings with the Russian ambassador should also be a part of an investigation.

“Regardless of whether the Attorney General misspoke or misled at his Senate confirmation hearing, the Justice Department should include these alleged meetings in their investigation and Mr. Sessions should recuse himself from Justice Department activities related to the investigation,” Curbelo said in a statement.

Nevada’s Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDemocrats spend big to put Senate in play This week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE — the most vulnerable GOP senator up for reelection in 2018 — became the third Senate Republican to call for Sessions's recusal on Thursday afternoon. He also said the attorney general should "explain his interactions" with Russia's envoy.

Heller is the only GOP senator up for reelection this cycle who represents a state won by Clinton. Democrats must defend 10 incumbents in states carried by Trump, and Heller will be the party's best Senate pickup opportunity.

About an hour before Heller's statement, the Nevada Democratic Party mounted pressure on him to break his silence and call on Sessions to resign.

Democrats are demanding Sessions step down from the Justice Department entirely.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “we are far past recusal” and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerKrystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (D-N.Y.) echoed a similar sentiment.

The House Democrats’ campaign arm argues that anything less than a call for resignation falls short.

“When it comes to lying under oath to Congress, recusal is not enough,” DCCC spokeswoman Meredith Kelly said. “Attorney General Sessions lied to Congress and the American people, and House Republicans should represent their constituents and call for his resignation. Full stop.”   

No Republican has gone that far at this point.

Mast, who represents a district won by President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE but was considered competitive in 2016, was the first Republican to raise the specter of Sessions resigning.

"Jeff Sessions needs to immediately clarify his Senate testimony and recuse himself from any investigation into Russian ties. If he cannot commit to ensuring this process is completed with full transparency and integrity, he should resign," Mast said in a statement.

Not all the Republicans facing competitive reelection bids next year have weighed in yet.

Requests for comment to lawmakers such as Reps. Will Hurd (Texas) and Steve Knight (Calif.) weren’t immediately returned.

Updated at 4:05 p.m.