A White House spokeswoman said Sunday that it’s premature to say that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself and appoint a special prosecutor to look into apparent Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election aimed at helping elect Donald Trump.
The assessment by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the principal White House deputy press secretary, comes as a growing number of Democrats are calling for Sessions, who was a key figure in Trump’s campaign, to step aside as the FBI and the Justice Department probe what happened. On Friday, a leading Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, echoed that view, saying a special prosecutor would be appropriate.
Appearing Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week,” Sanders said congressional committees looking into Russian activity should be allowed to do their work first.
“I don’t think we’re there yet,” she said. “Let’s work through this process. You guys want to jump to the very end of the line.”
“We’re confident whatever review that Congress wants to do, that’s the first step,” Sanders said.
Sanders also said that the investigations would find no efforts by the Trump campaign to collude with Russians — and she suggested that the focus on Russia was being driven by Democrats still upset by the election result.
“We’re extremely confident that, whatever review, they’re all going to come to the same conclusion: that we had no involvement in this,” Sanders said.
“The bigger thing here is, if Democrats want to continue to relive their loss every single day, by doing an investigation or review after review, that’s fine by us,” she added. “We know why we won this race. It’s because we had the better candidate with the better message. They didn’t campaign in the right places. They didn’t have a good candidate, and if they want to continue to relive that loss every single day, then we welcome that.”
Sanders’s boss echoed that sentiment on Twitter on Sunday afternoon, writing: “Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!”
During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) agreed with the White House and disagreed with Issa about the need for a special prosecutor.
“There's no allegations of any crime occurring,” Cotton, a member of the Intelligence Committee, said. “If we get down that road, that's a decision that Attorney General Sessions can make at the time.”
Cotton said he had seen “no credible evidence of these contacts beyond anonymous sources in the media.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a vocal Trump supporter during the campaign, also said he sees no reason for Sessions to hand off an investigation to a special prosecutor.
“The Justice Department, over the course of time, has shown itself, with the professionals that are there, to have the ability to investigate these type of things,” Christie said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “When a special prosecutor gets involved, the thing gets completely out of control. And I think that doesn't serve anybody's purposes.”
“We have a lot of important problems to deal with in this country. And this is — I'm not saying that is not one of them, but I believe the Justice Department can handle it,” Christie added.
Issa’s comments came during a Friday broadcast of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
Issa, a Trump supporter who formerly served as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said congressional committees should be allowed to do their work. But when pressed by Maher, Issa added: “You’re right that you cannot have somebody — a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions — who was on the campaign and who is an appointee. You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute and office.”