In the wake of reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions talked with a Russian government official (the Russian ambassador to be specific) during the campaign after saying in his confirmation hearing in the Judiciary Committee that he had not had any communications with the Russian government, Democratic members of Congress were calling for his resignation, or at least his recusal from any investigation into allegations of Russian communications with campaign officials.
Sessions said late Thursday he would recuse himself, but that his answers to the committee were truthful.
Justice generally handles the antitrust reviews of communications mergers.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), ranking member of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, was focused on the investigations into those Russian ties.
“These new reports make it clear: Attorney General Jeff Sessions cannot and should not be the person to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia which now include the Attorney General himself," he said in a statement. "The reports also make clear that this administration struggles with telling the truth. We need an independent prosecutor, and we must empower all relevant committees in the Congress to conduct an exhaustive, bipartisan, and transparent investigation.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) went further. "“It’s clear that Attorney General Sessions gave false testimony under oath at his hearing," she said. "This should disqualify him from leading the Justice Department. “Between Attorney General Sessions’ false testimony and the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman working with the White House to kill stories about Russian contacts, we need to get all of the facts."
She said she wanted not only a special prosecutor but a 9/11-style commission" to "get to the bottom of Russia’s ties to the Trump administration and election hacking.”
The Administration has said the allegations of ties are bogus and the stories about them "fake news."
The New York Times was reporting that some Republican members were also calling for Sessions to recuse himself from any investigation.
Sessions said at a press conference Thursday afternoon (March 2) that he never had meetings with Russian operatives or intermediaries about the Trump campaign. He said any suggestion he had such meetings with intermediaries was not true. And that it was the question about such meetings that he answered in the negative at the hearing, an answer he said was correct.
He also said he would write to the Judiciary Committee to explain.
Sessions also said he had met with senior officials about the rules on recusals and was advised to recuse himself from any campaign investigation, so he has recused himself from matters that deal with Trump campaign.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that any talk of resignation was "nonsense," but that recusal was the right move.
"We all know Attorney General Sessions to be an honest and forthright public servant," he said in a statement. " When we spoke earlier this afternoon, between votes on the Senate floor, I suggested, as I did with Attorney General Lynch after she met with President Clinton on her airplane, that his recusal may be the best course of action. He indicated that he had been consulting with the professionals at the department, and that he agreed. There’s little doubt that alleged conflicts, no matter how flimsy and regardless of whether or not they are based in fact, will be used against him to discredit him and any potential investigation into alleged conversations between the campaign and the Russian government. So, his actions today were the right thing to do."
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