Jeff Sessions recuses himself from Trump campaign probe
New York, March 3 (IANS) US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he will recuse himself from any investigations into Russia’s possible link with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The statement comes a day after media reports revealed he spoke with Russian Ambassador twice last year but didn’t reveal it at the Senate hearings for his confirmation.
“I did meet with one Russian official a couple of times”, Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying at a press conference on Thursday, while dismissing any accusation that he tried to mislead the Senate about his contacts with Russia.
“That is not my intent. That is not correct”, he said.
His agreement to step aside from such probes “should not be interpreted as confirmation of the existence of any investigation,” Sessions added.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump told reporters that he has “total” confidence in Sessions over the controversy though he “wasn’t aware” that Sessions, the then Republican senator, had contact with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US at the time.
But bipartisan pressure for Sessions to resign or step aside from such investigations is mounting as top Democrats at the Capitol, Nancy Pelosi in the House and Chuck Schumer in the Senate, urged him to depart.
Sessions lied under oath at the Senate hearings, Pelosi accused earlier Thursday.
Schumer said the Justice Department should appoint a special prosecutor to examine whether the ongoing probe has been compromised by Sessions.
Sessions spoke on the phone privately with Russian Ambassador to Washington from his office in September, said media reports on Wednesday night.
Two months before the phone talk, Sessions also met with Kislayk and talked to him informally when attending an event held at conservative think tank Heritage Foundation along with 50 other ambassadors, Session’s spokeswoman Sara Isgur Flores has confirmed.
“It was short and informal,” the spokeswoman said Wednesday night, adding that as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee at the time, Sessions regularly met foreign ambassadors.
“I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It’s false”, Sessions released a statement around midnight in a failed attempt to count down the new wave of political storm.
During the Senate hearings earlier this year, when asked what he would do if he learned a member of Trump’s campaign had communicated with the Russian government over the course of the 2016 campaign, Sessions responded: “I’m not aware of any of those activities … I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
Officials at the Justice Department said Sessions did not consider his talks with Kislyak relevant to the lawmakers’ questions and did not remember their discussion in detail.
Sessions was an early Trump supporter and one of his top advisers during the New York billionaire’s campaign last year.
Trump’s first National Security Adviser Michael Flynn stepped down last month after it was reported that he had discussed U.S. sanctions with Kislyak in December, and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the details.