Trump reportedly ordered a White House lawyer to convince Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation

donald trump jeff sessions

Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions.

  • President Donald Trump reportedly tried to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
  • Trump sent a White House lawyer in early 2017 to lobby Sessions because Trump is said to have believed that Sessions would protect him.
  • Sessions at the time had faced increasing calls to recuse himself in part because he had not fully disclosed his previous contacts with Russian operatives during the 2016 election.
  • The new revelations paint a picture of a new president who was rattled by the ongoing Russia probe, which is partly focused on whether or not he obstructed justice by firing then-FBI director James Comey, who had been leading the investigation when Trump fired him in May.

President Donald Trump took pains to try to limit the Russia investigation in the early months of his administration.

According to a Thursday report from The New York Times, Trump directed a White House lawyer to urge Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia probe, which at the time was led by FBI Director James Comey under the supervision of the Justice Department.
Trump saw Sessions, a staunch ally to him on the 2016 campaign trail, as someone who would protect him from the investigation. Among other things, prosecutors involved in the probe are trying to make sense of Russia's meddling in the US election, which US intelligence officials believe was intended to boost Trump and hamstring his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

White House lawyer Donald McGahn acted on Trump's order to reign in Sessions, The Times' Michael Schmidt reported, citing two people familiar with the incident. Sessions did not comply.

The attorney general was already in the hot seat at the time after it was revealed that, during his Senate confirmation, he had not fully disclosed his personal contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US. Those revelations put the onus on Sessions to step aside, so as not to tarnish the investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to the Kremlin. He officially recused himself in March.

Despite Trump's efforts, his anger at Sessions, and his firing then-FBI director James Comey in May, the Russia investigation has grown exponentially. Four of Trump's former campaign associates have been criminally charged.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing.