Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision on Thursday to recuse himself from existing or forthcoming investigations of President Trump's campaign was a striking reminder of the administration's persistent struggle to put its Russia problem to bed.
Sessions' announcement came less than 24 hours after he was accused of misleading the Senate Judiciary Committee by failing to disclose two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kisylak after Sessions endorsed candidate Trump. The former Alabama senator was one of the president's earliest congressional supporters and often appeared as a surrogate for him on the campaign trail.
The latest news cycle, along with Democrats playing up the cloud of Russia that hangs over the White House, is reminiscent of situations that have unfolded multiple times since Trump's election victory.
Two days after the billionaire businessman stunned his opponents with a 300-plus electoral vote victory, a top Russian diplomat said publicly that a handful of individuals in Trump's orbit had been in contact with Moscow during the campaign.
"I cannot say that all of them but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told The Washington Post on Nov. 10.
Additional allegations of correspondence between Russia and Trump associates have since caused multiple headaches for the fledgling administration.
Such was the case last month when White House National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was asked to resign for failing to inform senior administration officials that he had spoken with Kisylak about Obama-era sanctions before he was sworn into office. The controversy spanned several weeks and generated a deluge of bad press for Trump and Vice President Pence.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer and Pence both told reporters in January, when news first broke of Flynn's phone call with Kisylak, that he had only had a friendly exchange with the Russian ambassador and no formal discussions took place. Justice Department officials later warned the administration that Flynn had in fact discussed sanctions, prompting Trump to eventually ask for his resignation after it became clear he lied to Pence about it.
Last week, Spicer generated his own Russia-related controversy when it was revealed that he and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus had asked the intelligence community to knock down reports linking Trump to Moscow. Journalists pressed Spicer for days about his correspondence with FBI officials, who he claimed told the White House that recent reports about Trump and Russia were inaccurate.
"I will say I think we did our job very effectively by making sure that reporters who had questions about the accuracy and claims in The New York Times, we were pointing them to experts who understood whether or not that story was accurate or not," Spicer told reporters on Monday.
Separate controversies have also flowed out of the concerns over Trump's relationship with Moscow and his comments about U.S.-Russia relations.
Several of the president's Cabinet nominees came under fire during their confirmation hearings for contradicting the president's own posture on Russia or sidestepping questions about whether the U.S. adversary had actively assisted Trump during the 2016 election.
"Nikki Haley departs sharply from Trump on a range of foreign policy issues, including Russia," read a Washington Post headline the day Haley appeared for her confirmation hearing to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
"Mattis rebuffs Russia cooperation call, says 'little doubt' Moscow meddling in elections," read a separate headline earlier this month when Trump's Defense secretary delivered remarks at NATO's headquarters.
For all the resources administration officials have spent trying to get rid of their Russia problem, Session's recusal suggests this is an issue that could haunt the president for months, at least.