- Alex Wong/Getty Images
- President Donald Trump once sought to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
- The Times referred to Sessions as an “overlooked” key witness in the investigation, which is being conducted by the special counsel Robert Mueller.
- Trump’s demands to Sessions may play a key role in an obstruction-of-justice case against the president.
- Trump previously was reported to have demanded Sessions’ resignation after Mueller was appointed, a development he attributed to Sessions’ recusal.
A report Tuesday indicating that President Donald Trump once tried to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal from the Russia investigation could add a new wrinkle to the matter.
The report was published Tuesday in The New York Times, which referred to Sessions as an “overlooked” key witness in the special counsel’s obstruction-of-justice investigation into Trump. The report further illustrates how the relationship between Trump and Sessions devolved after Sessions recused himself from the investigation.
The Times said Trump, who publicly berated Sessions over his recusal, believed early on that he needed an ally in charge of the Russia investigation, which is now being led by the special counsel Robert Mueller. He is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia or whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice in connection to the investigation.
The president has publicly called out Sessions on numerous occasions.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers,” Trump tweeted last June.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017
Trump was previously reported to have demanded Sessions’ resignation after Mueller was appointed in May 2017 following Sessions’ recusal and the firing of James Comey as FBI director. But The Times reported on Tuesday that before that, Trump at least once had asked Sessions to reverse his recusal from matters related to the Russia investigation.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s top attorney in the Russia case, defended Trump’s desire for Sessions to oversee the investigation as being appropriate.
“‘Unrecuse’ doesn’t say, ‘Bury the investigation,'” Giuliani told The Times. “It says on the face of it: Take responsibility for it and handle it correctly.”
Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation on March 2, after he was discovered to have met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US at the time, during the presidential campaign. His meetings with Kislyak contradicted his testimony during his Senate confirmation hearing, where he said he did not have contacts with Russians during the campaign.
The attorney general reasoned that because he was a member of Trump’s campaign, he was obligated to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into whether members of the campaign colluded with Russia.