Sessions, other Cabinet members not attending Camp David retreat

Story highlights

  • "The press should stop using a long-planned meeting with congressional leaders to take cheap shots at the attorney general," the official said
  • Several other Cabinet members appeared to have not been invited to the meetings

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump is convening Republican congressional leaders and some members of his Cabinet at Camp David this weekend. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom the President once called "beleaguered," is not attending.

A Justice Department spokesperson noted that Sessions was not invited to participate in the weekend. But according to a list released by the White House, eight other Trump Cabinet members, including Education Secretary Betsy Devos and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, would be present for the gathering.
"The Camp David retreat is an opportunity for the President to bring together bicameral congressional leadership to discuss this year's legislative agenda," said White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters. "Therefore, the majority of the Cabinet is not attending."
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    It is not clear whether the legislative agenda items being discussed would touch upon Sessions' jurisdiction at the Department of Justice.
    And a White House official also slammed the media for raising the issue of Sessions' presence.
    "The press should stop using a long-planned meeting with congressional leaders to take cheap shots at the attorney general," the official said.
    Questions about Sessions' absence arose after a report in The New York Times on Thursday highlighted Trump's efforts to prevent Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia probe, which Sessions later did anyway.
    CNN confirmed that White House counsel Don McGahn tried to convince Sessions not to recuse himself. But Sessions made the announcement anyway, infuriating the President.
    And it also comes during a week in which multiple Republican members of Congress have called on Sessions to resign, citing his inability to manage the Russia probe because of his recusal.
    On Friday, Republican Rep. Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, became the latest member of Congress to call on Sessions to resign.
    "This is hard for me, it really is, because I think Jeff Sessions is one of the most honorable men in Washington," Stewart told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "But we have been weakened in our investigation into very important concerns at the Department of Justice and the FBI. Jeff Sessions is not able to take the reins and direct that investigation."
    Amid this backdrop, the official added of Sessions, unprompted: "The White House stands firmly behind him."
    CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct which Trump Cabinet members would attend the meeting. It has also been updated to correctly state CNN's reporting on McGahn's efforts to convince Sessions to not recuse himself from the Russia investigation.