U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday said he will recuse himself from any investigation into Russian involvement with the November election.
Sessions said he did not have any meetings with a Russian ambassador tied to the campaign of President Donald Trump. He did confirm the meeting, but said it was not tied to the election.
Sessions defended his comments to the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain his testimony during his confirmation hearing that is in question.
The statement follows a report in today’s Washington Post that Sessions twice met last year with Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak when he was a member of the U.S. Senate from Alabama.
Sessions said they talked about terrorism, the situation in the Ukraine, but says they did not talk about the election.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joined other Democrats calling for Sessions to resign, while Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, urged Sessions to recuse himself from a Justice Department probe into allegations that Russian officials may have intervened with last year’s presidential election in an effort to help Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“It is deeply alarming that Attorney General Sessions would lie under oath especially concerning his dealings with the Russian Ambassador, as both Republicans and Democrats have called for investigations into the Trump Administration’s ties to Moscow,” said Brown. “It is no longer enough that the Attorney General recuse himself in these investigations. He must resign his post immediately. Ohioans deserve a top law enforcement official they can trust, who doesn’t lie to the American people under oath.”
Portman said in a terse statement that Sessions “is a former colleague and a friend, but I think it would be for him and for the country to recuse himself” from the department’s investigation.
Portman, R-Ohio, issued his statement as House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., called on Sessions to not take part in the Justice Department investigation.
“The news breaking overnight reaffirms what I called for in an interview last Friday, that we need an independent review by a credible third party and that Attorney General Sessions should recuse himself from any investigation into Russia,” Issa said in a statement. “
“We need a clear-eyed view of what the Russians actually did so that all Americans can have faith in our institutions,” Issa said, adding the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin “is a bad actor whose actions should be carefully scrutinized – and regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on – we have a vested interest in fully understanding exactly what happened and how to prevent it from happening again.”
Democrats went even further with Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, calling on Sessions to resign, saying he “has lost all credibility to serve as our nation’s top law enforcement officer.”
During his confirmation hearings last in January before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions said he had no contact with Russian officials during last year’s campaign when he served as an adviser to Trump.
But following the Post story, aides to Session acknowledged he met with Kislyak last year – once at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and last fall in Sessions’ office on Capitol Hill. But they insisted Sessions did not discuss campaign issues with the Russian ambassador.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the “fact that he spoke with Russians and then, under oath, denied it is unacceptable. If the attorney general refuses to recuse himself, he should resign.”
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