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Posted Mar 02, 2017 03:10 pm CST
Updated and developing: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Thursday that he will recuse himself from any investigations involving the presidential campaign, a vow made following revelations that Sessions met twice last year with the Russian ambassador but did not mention the meetings during his confirmation hearings.
President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday that he has “total” confidence in Jeff Sessions, though he wasn’t aware of Sessions’ contacts with the ambassador.
Sessions said at a press conference on Thursday that there were no discussions related to the campaign during the two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The first meeting came after a speech and it was brief, Sessions said. During the second, the subject of terrorism and Ukraine came up, and the conversation grew “a little bit testy.” Sessions declined an invitation for a future lunch.
“Le me be clear,” Sessions said. “I never had meetings with Russian operative or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.”
Sessions said he believed his testimony during confirmation hearings “was honest and correct as I understood it at the time.”
Sessions spoke after some Republicans called on Sessions to recuse himself in investigations of possible Russian interference in the election because of the revelations. Trump, however, said he didn’t think Sessions needed to recuse himself, the Washington Post reports.
Among those calling for recusal were House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, the Washington Post reports.
Sessions said he will recuse himself form any existing and future investigation of any matters relating in any way to the presidential campaign. He reached the decision after conferring with senior officials at the Justice Department.
Some Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, are going further and asking Sessions to resign. There are also calls for appointment of an independent counsel to investigate ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. And the American Civil Liberties Union is calling for an investigation into whether Sessions perjured himself, according to a press release.
Sessions had testified during his confirmation hearing that he had no contacts with Russian officials, the Washington Post reported in this prior story. Justice Department officials said Sessions’ July and September contacts with Ambassador Kislyak were a result of his position on the Armed Services Committee and had no connection to his role as an adviser to the presidential campaign.
Trump told reports that Sessions probably testified truthfully.
The Washington Post asked the 26 members of the Armed Services Committee from 2016 if they had met with Kislyak. Out of 20 who responded, none reported any contact.
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