AG Jeff Sessions will recuse himself from Russian election investigations
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he will recuse himself from a federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 White House election.
Sessions faced mounting pressure from both Democrats and Republicans to step aside after revelations that he had twice talked with Moscow’s U.S. envoy during the presidential campaign. Sessions’ conversations with the ambassador seem to contradict his sworn statements to Congress during his confirmation hearings.
Sessions says he didn’t lie when he testified during his confirmation hearing that he had no interaction with Russians during the 2016 election campaign.
He continued to draw a distinction between his conversations with the Russian ambassador in his role as a senator and his role in the Trump campaign.
“This announcement should not be interpreted as confirmation of the existence of any investigation or suggestive of the scope of any such investigation,” he added.
Still, Sessions is recusing himself from a federal investigation into Russian interference in the election. He says he is doing so at the urging of senior career officials in the Justice Department.
Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente will handle any matters related to the investigation.
“I feel I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in,”said Sessions.
The Justice Department said there was nothing improper about the meetings. Sessions insisted he never met with Russian officials to discuss the campaign.
Sessions is sending a letter to a Senate panel to explain his testimony under oath.
That’s the word from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who says he has talked to Sessions.
Grassley says he had asked Sessions to send the letter “so we can put this issue to bed once and for all.”
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says Sessions’ recusal isn’t enough and has repeated an earlier call for his resignation.
When attorneys general have recused themselves in the past, investigations were handled by lower-ranking but still senior political-appointees within the Justice Department.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer is defending Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying he was simply doing his job as a former senator when he spoke with the Russian ambassador.
Spicer tells reporters aboard Air Force Once that Sessions did not mislead in sworn statements he made to Congress during his confirmation hearing.
At the hearing in January, Sessions was asked about allegations of contact between Russia and Trump aides during the 2016 election.
Sessions said he was “unaware” that anyone from the Trump campaign had been in touch with the Russian government — despite his own conversations.
Spicer said that Session had been asked the question with respect to Sessions’ role as a surrogate for the campaign — not his role as senator.
He argues conversations with ambassadors are part of regular Senate business.
President Donald Trump says he “wasn’t aware” that his attorney general had contact with the Russian ambassador during last year’s White House campaign.
Trump made the comment in Newport News, Virginia, before giving a speech aboard the USS Gerald Ford.
Trump says he has “total” confidence Sessions. Asked if Sessions should recuse himself, he said “I don’t think so.”