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 SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war McCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' 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 ClintonOvernight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Sarah Sanders says she was interviewed by Mueller's office Trump: I believe Obama would have gone to war with North Korea MORE in November.


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 ChaffetzTop Utah paper knocks Chaffetz as he mulls run for governor: ‘His political career should be over’ Boehner working on memoir: report Former GOP lawmaker on death of 7-year-old migrant girl: Message should be ‘don't make this journey, it will kill you' 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 PortmanSteel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs Trade official warns senators of obstacles to quick China deal Lawmakers divided over how to end shutdowns for good MORE (Ohio) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBusiness, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week 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 FrankenVirginia scandals pit Democrats against themselves and their message The Hill's Morning Report — Will Ralph Northam survive? Identity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination 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 Leahy‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire How the border deal came together Winners and losers in the border security deal 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 HolderOcasio-Cortez to be first guest on new Desus and Mero show Holder says he will make 2020 decision in coming weeks Holder: If Trump directed Cohen to lie, impeachment proceedings ‘must begin’ 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 HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds 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 SchumerHouse Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall Trump says he 'didn't need to' declare emergency but wanted 'faster' action 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 TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery 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.