More White House officials were involved in the effort to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions to not recuse himself in the Russia investigation beyond counsel Don McGahn, a senior administration official said Friday.
Among those who participated in calls between the White House and Justice Department were former chief of staff Reince Priebus and ex-press secretary Sean Spicer, the senior administration official said.
“I think it’s fair to call it pressure,” the official said about White House conversations with Sessions and his top aides about the matter.
Earlier Friday, Spicer said on Good Morning America that he wasn’t aware of the President’s reported request that McGahn urge Sessions to decide against recusal.
In one of the calls, Spicer said “he (Sessions) doesn’t need to recuse himself,” according to the official who has knowledge of the conversations. This official asked on one of the calls how Spicer, who is not an attorney, could reach such a conclusion.
Spicer told CNN he called Sessions’ office, but that it was about a news conference.
“For eight months the narrative was that I was out of the loop and now I’m part of it? I don’t think so,” Spicer told CNN.
Reached by phone, Priebus declined to comment.
The official said Priebus and Spicer were also pressing Sessions staffers on how they would handle the messaging on the attorney general’s decision to recuse. The conversations were not just about recusal but also about how to explain the move to the public, the official said.
“It was just chaos,” the official said about the conversations with Sessions’ team.