Trump reported to have ordered lawyer to urge Sessions not to recuse himself

President Donald Trump ordered his White House counsel to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself in the Justice Department's investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, The New York Times and The Associated Press reported Thursday night.

The Times cited two sources as saying White House Counsel Don McGahn tried but failed to persuade Sessions not to recuse himself.

The AP also cited two people familiar with the discussions as confirming details of the conversation between McGahn and Sessions.

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) joins President Donald Trump (L) for an opioid and drug abuse listening session at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
President Donald Trump speaks with Attorney General Jeff Sessions as they attend the National Peace Officers Memorial Service on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions speaks next to U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally at Madison City Schools Stadium in Madison, Alabama February 28, 2016. REUTERS/Marvin Gentry
U.S. President Donald Trump watches as Vice President Mike Pence (R) swears in Jeff Sessions (L) as U.S. Attorney General while his wife Mary Sessions holds the Bible in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 28: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., left, endorses Donald Trump to be the Republican nominee for president during a campaign rally at Madison City Schools Stadium in Madison, Ala., February 28, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. President Donald Trump congratulates Jeff Sessions after he was sworn in as U.S. Attorney General as his wife Mary Sessions looks on during a ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump sits with U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) (L) and retired U.S. Army General Keith Kellogg (R) during a national security meeting with advisors at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a swearing-in ceremony for new Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Under a portrait of former President Andrew Jackson, U.S. President Donald Trump (L) congratulates Jeff Sessions after he was sworn in as U.S. Attorney General during a ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
President Donald Trump reaches out toward Attorney General Jeff Sessions as they attend the National Peace Officers Memorial Service on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
US President-elect Donald Trump (C) talks with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (2nd L) and US Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions (L) as he arrives in Mobile, Alabama, for a 'Thank You Tour 2016' rally on December 17, 2016. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
MOBILE, AL - DECEMBER 17: President-elect Donald Trump greets Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump's picks for attorney general, during a thank you rally in Ladd-Peebles Stadium on December 17, 2016 in Mobile, Alabama. President-elect Trump has been visiting several states that he won, to thank people for their support during the U.S. election. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump watches as Vice President Mike Pence (R) swears in Jeff Sessions (L) as U.S. Attorney General while his wife Mary Sessions holds the Bible in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
MOBILE, AL- AUGUST 21: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump introduces Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R) Mobile during his rally at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on August 21, 2015 in Mobile, Alabama. The Donald Trump campaign moved tonight's rally to a larger stadium to accommodate demand. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump congratulates Jeff Sessions after he was sworn in as U.S. Attorney General as his wife Mary Sessions looks on during a ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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Sessions declined, and in March he stepped aside from the inquiry, which is looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Sessions took the action after it emerged that he had failed to disclose meetings with Russian officials during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Related: The evidence isn't on Trump's side in 'collusion' war of words

A White House lawyer for Trump, Ty Cobb, said he had no comment on the Times report Thursday night.

The Sessions recusal has been a sore spot for Trump for months, with the president publicly deriding the decision and lamenting his selection of the former Alabama senator as his attorney general.

“He should not have recused himself from the Russia investigation almost immediately after he took office, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have quite simply picked somebody else,” Trump said at a press conference on July 25th. “It’s not fair to the presidency.”

When Sessions announced he was recusing himself he said he had no improper contacts with the Russians but would withdraw because of his involvement in the Trump campaign.

Sessions' deputy, Rod Rosenstein, took over the investigation. After Trump fired FBI director James Comey two months later, Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the Russia probe.

Four members of Trump's transition team or cabinet, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and national security adviser Michael Flynn, have been charged so far in the investigation.

Related: Focus on Flynn, Trump timeline suggests obstruction is on Mueller's mind

While the White House and some Republicans in Congress have sought to downplay the seriousness and credibility of the Mueller probe, Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon suggested it could ultimately bring down Trump, according to an explosive new book.

NBC News reported last month that Mueller appears to be focused on possible obstruction of justice by the president, according to two people familiar with the matter. 

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