Sessions recuses himself from Russia inquiry
Washington, March 3 (IANS) US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, facing widespread criticism over newly disclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to Washington, recused himself from any probe into charges that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, the media reported.
He made the remarks at a media conference on Thursday following Justice Department officials claiming on Wednesday that Sessions spoke to Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice last year, the encounters which he did not disclose during his Congressional confirmation hearing to become the Attorney General in January.
“They (Justice Department) said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation,” Sessions said, adding that he concurred with their assessment and would thus recuse himself from any existing or future investigation involving President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, The Washington Post reported.
However, Trump stood by Jeff Sessions on Thursday, saying the Attorney General did not make any misleading statements under oath during his confirmation hearings, but that he could have been more accurate in his responses to lawmakers.
“Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional,” CNN reported citing the President as saying.
“This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win. The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election and now, they have lost their grip on reality.
“The real story is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total witch hunt,” the President added.
Later Thursday night, Sessions told Fox News that he plans to submit a “supplement” to the record of his congressional testimony, detailing the meetings he did not mention at the time.
“My response went to the question indicated about the continuing surrogate relationship that I firmly denied and correctly denied, and I did not mention in that time that I had met with the ambassador,” Sessions said.
“So I will definitely make that a part of the record as I think is appropriate.”
Sessions said the decision to recuse himself followed his promise to the Senate Judiciary Committee to avoid any semblance of a conflict of interest between his new role and previous position as a strong supporter of the Trump campaign.
It was also the result of consultations with career Justice Department officials, he said.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer meanwhile billed the controversy arising from this news as a “partisan thing that we’ve seen over and over again”.
“This continues to be a question of: there’s no there there,” Spicer said.
Several Democratic members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday night called on Sessions to resign from his post.
The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation — both under Sessions’ supervision — are in charge of investigating alleged Russian interference in the presidential election, besides alleged links between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.