WASHINGTON — Seeking to get past stories about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Russians, President Trump spent Friday visiting a school in Florida and mocking Democrats for what he called their hypocrisy.
Tweeting out an old picture of Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer sharing coffee and donuts with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump said: "We should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!"
The tweet came hours after Trump issued a statement expressing support for Sessions and claiming that "the real story is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total witch hunt!"
Schumer responded on Twitter, saying he would "happily talk" about his past contacts with Russians in public and under oath, and asking Trump: "Would you & your team?" (Schumer also disclosed the he and Putin had Krispy Kreme donuts when the Russian president visited New York City back in 2003.)
Protests aside, there is no evidence the Russia flap is going away soon amid various investigations into Russian efforts to interfere with last year's presidential election, including hack attacks on Democratic officials close to Trump opponent Hillary Clinton.
A day after Sessions said he would recuse himself from any investigation involving the Trump campaign — an announcement that came hours after revelations of previously undisclosed talks between Sessions and Russia's ambassador to the United States — Schumer and other Democrats continued to call for a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump-Russia relationship.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC's Morning Joe it appears that Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak's approach to Sessions "had to do with wanting to curry favor or learn information from someone who had potentially the next president's ear."
Like Schumer, Schiff called on Sessions to resign and said his recusal is not enough.
In calling for an outside investigation, Schiff said on MSNBC's that "these are the kinds of extraordinary circumstances where the public is not going to have confidence in someone that is not fully independent here."
Trump and aides said there is nothing to the Russia story, no evidence of collusion or contacts between campaign officials and Russian officials who may have been involved in the 2016 election.
"The big point here is the president himself knows what his involvement was, and that’s zero," said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. "He had no interaction, and I think that’s what the story should be focused on.”
Democratic lawmakers who called on Sessions to resign noted that, during his confirmation hearings to be attorney general, Sessions said he had no contact with Russian officials.
Sessions and his defenders at the White House said his testimony dealt with his work as a campaign surrogate for Trump, and that two talks with Kislyak came in connection with his official duties as a U.S. senator.