Trump flashes anger over Sessions recusal, Russia stories in tense Oval Office meeting
Trump reportedly went "ballistic" on senior staff, a source told ABC News.
By Jonathan Karl and Chris Vlasto
March 4, 2017, 7:12 PM
• 3 min read
-- Before heading to his so-called winter White House in Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday, President Donald Trump summoned some of his senior staffers to the Oval Office and went "ballistic," a senior White House source told ABC News.
The president erupted with anger over the latest slew of news reports connecting Russia with the new administration — specifically the abrupt decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.
Sources said the president felt Sessions' recusal was unnecessary and only served to embolden Trump's political opponents. Sessions made his announcement Thursday just as Trump returned to Washington from a trip to the USS Gerald R. Ford in Virginia for a speech about his agenda.
Hours earlier, aboard the ship, Trump told reporters that he had "total" confidence in Sessions and saw no reason he should recuse himself.
"We should have had a good week. We should have had a good weekend. But once again, back to Russia," a senior White House official said, expressing the frustration simmering in the West Wing after the news that week that Sessions failed to disclose during his confirmation process that he met with the Russian ambassador twice during the campaign. Sessions at the time was a senator on the Armed Services Committee and was helping the Trump campaign.
Among those gathered in the Oval Office on Friday: chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, White House counsel Don McGahn, press secretary Sean Spicer, newly hired communications director Mike Dubke, Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and his wife, first daughter Ivanka Trump, the sources said.
With Marine One waiting on the South Lawn, Donald Trump and his team engaged in an animated exchange — captured by press pool cameras peering in through the windows. Trump then left the office for the helicopter, taking the hands of his young grandchildren and joined by Ivanka Trump and Kushner.
Priebus and Bannon had planned to join them on the trip, but after Donald Trump's eruption, those plans changed. One source said both men volunteered to stay behind in Washington, with another source saying the president seemed to concur that they should.
As Trump was in the air aboard Marine One headed for Air Force One on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews, a phone call was made from the West Wing to the team on board the president's plane with a directive to remove Priebus and Bannon from the manifest, sources said. They would not be going to the Sunshine State.