Politicians have called for Sessions to step down from his position.
(CNN) – Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to recuse himself from any current or future investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The nation’s top cop said he did not mislead the Senate during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general, and said his recusal was only to avoid the appearance of impropriety, not an admission of guilt. His staff recommended he step aside from any investigation related to Russian contacts.
“I feel I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in,” Sessions said.
In a rebuke of calls for him to resign from his post, Sessions said he never discussed the 2016 presidential election with Russian diplomats, and that he did not intend to mislead senators during his confirmation hearing.
The attorney general added that he was not confirming whether there was an investigation or not.
“This announcement should not be interpreted as confirmation of the existence of any investigation or suggestive of the scope of any such investigation,” he said.
Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump told pool reporters aboard the USS Gerald Ford he has “total confidence” in Sessions Thursday afternoon.
Trump made the comments amid the revelation Sessions met with a Russian diplomat despite denying in a hearing he had any contact with Russians.
Sessions reportedly met twice last year with ambassador Sergey Kislyak despite saying he had not met with Russian officials during his Senate confirmation hearings in January.
The president also indicated to pool reporters that he thinks Sessions shouldn’t recuse himself, a call that several Republicans had been making Thursday.
A senior White House official said the Oval Office found out about the meetings through media reports, CNN reported.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-CA, said he doesn’t have evidence that members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign made improper contact with Russian officials, he said during remarks after a meeting with FBI Director James Comey.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, complained that Comey was less than forthcoming in helping with the House’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election, including contacts with the Trump campaign.
The Democrats on the House Judiciary committee called for an immediate criminal investigation into Sessions’ statements via letter to Comey and to the D.C. U.S. Attorney and that the investigation “consider any involvement or knowledge the Trump Administration and Trump campaign may have regarding these matters.”
“Efforts by Attorney General Sessions to assert that his testimony was not false or even misleading because he met with the Russian Ambassador in his capacity as a senator, rather than a campaign representative, appear to be disingenuous at best as the questions put to him did not in any way ask if the meeting was campaign related,” the letter stated.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, said Thursday that Sessions should resign and a special prosecutor should investigate possible connections between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Sessions’ spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday he met with Kislyak before the presidential election last year. President Donald Trump’s administration is again responding to reports of contact between his campaign and the Russians.
The communication reportedly involved Sessions and Kislyak, a diplomat considered by U.S. intelligence to be Moscow’s top spy and spy recruiter in Washington.
Sessions said Thursday morning he will recuse himself if he feels it necessary in any forthcoming investigations.
“I have said whenever it’s appropriate, I will recuse myself. There’s no doubt about that,” he told NBC News.
He also denied wrongdoing.
“I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign,” he said, “and those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false. And I don’t have anything else to say about that.”
While some Democrats want Sessions to resign, Republicans have joined the chorus asking for Sessions to recuse himself from any investigations.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI, said during a Thursday news conference that Sessions should recuse himself if he is the subject of a probe, but also pushed back on allegations of impropriety in the Trump administration, saying he hasn’t seen evidence “that anybody in the Trump campaign … was involved in any of this.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah said he wants more clarification from Sessions in addition to recusal.
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