President Donald Trump said Thursday that he still has “total” confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the wake of revelations that Sessions met twice with the Russian ambassador before the election.
Trump told reporters on the U.S.S. Gerald Ford aircraft carrier that he “wasn’t aware at all” that Sessions had contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Asked if he thinks Sessions should recuse himself from an investigation into any ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, Trump said: “I don’t think so at all.”
The President said that Sessions “probably” testified truthfully in his Senate confirmation hearing, despite Sessions’ denial at the time that he had any contact with Russia.
In January, Sessions denied to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had any “communications with Russians.”
On Thursday, however, Sessions’ spokeswoman confirmed that Sessions met with Kislyak twice before the election.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Thursday that Sessions was “100 percent straight” with the committee during his hearing, and blamed “people who are choosing to play partisan politics” for any suggestion otherwise.
Spicer said there was no reason for Sessions to recuse himself from the probe, a message Fox correspondent John Roberts said came “straight from President Trump.”
Several Senate Republicans have called on Sessions to recuse himself in the wake of the revelation, including Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME). Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters Thursday that Sessions should recuse himself from any potential investigations between the Trump campaign and Russia “if there ever becomes enough evidence to suggest prosecution, or possible criminal prosecution.”
Two top Republicans in the House also indicated on Thursday that Sessions should consider recusing himself in the wake of the revelation.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said it would be “easier” for Sessions to recuse himself, and House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) tweeted that Sessions “should clarify his testimony and recuse himself.”
Trump’s declaration that he had “total” confidence in Sessions echoed comments his top adviser Kellyanne Conway made in February as it came to light that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussed sanctions in his own conversations with Kislyak.
“Gen. Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the President,” Conway said, just hours before Flynn resigned.