By: Zack Duvall
Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a press conference late Thursday afternoon announcing that he will recuse himself from any investigations involving alleged ties between members of the Trump administration and Russian interference in America’s 2016 election.
A defiant Sessions told reporters present for the Thursday afternoon press conference that he would not be involved in “any existing or future investigations” in regards to the 2016 election and alleged Trump campaign ties to Russian hacking. Sessions went on to defend his testimony to the Senate Confirmation committee, saying that his answers were “honest and correct” when he was asked about his communications with Russian officials during the election by Senators during his confirmation hearings.
Sessions came under fire Thursday from Democrats and even fellow Republicans, including Chairman of the House’s Oversight Committee Rep. Jason Chaffetz, following a report by The Washington Post that discloses two meetings that at the time, Senator Sessions, had with Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, during the course of the campaign. Chaffetz, who took to Twitter to say that Sessions “should clarify his statement and recuse himself.” Referring to Sessions’ testimony during confirmation hearings that he did not have any contact with Russian officials during the 2016 election.
During the time since the 2016 election, U.S. intelligence agencies, including the FBI and CIA, have concluded that the Russian government did in fact interfere in the 2016 election through various hacking attempts, some of which were successful, that ultimately led to the massive DNC leak that left the Democrat party reeling and without a national Chairperson.
Many critics and opponents of the Trump administration, including Democrat leaders such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), have since been very vocal in the movement by Democrats to launch a series of investigations into members of the President’s cabinet and potential ties to Russian government officials.
“Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign.” Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a scathing statement regarding the new allegations. Nancy Pelosi has called for a “bi-partisan investigation into Trump’s possible ties to Russia.”
The testimony at the heart of the new controversy is an exchange between Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Jeff Sessions during Sessions’ confirmation hearings in which Franken pressed Sessions on his communication with Russian officials on behalf of the Trump campaign during the race for the White House. Sessions at the time told Franken that he “did not have communications with the Russians” during the campaign and was not aware of anyone in the Trump campaign that had been in contact with Russian officials in regards to the election.
Democrats and Session critics, citing the report published by The Washington Post, claim that Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Kislyak on two occasions during the election. One instance was during a Heritage Foundation event in which Sessions was approached by a “small group” of diplomats that included Russian officials who spoke with the then Senator for a “brief amount of time”. The second instance was a meeting in which the same Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, met with Sessions at the Senator’s office for a private meeting between the two this past September.
Sessions has since come out to say that the two meetings disclosed by the Post’s report were done in the capacity of him fulfilling his duty as a Senator, and member of the U.S. Armed Services Committee.
In a statement that was made public late Wednesday night, Sessions and his team attempted to clarify his testimony and downplay the media outcry that was beginning over the allegations saying that he never discussed campaign details with Russian officials and that he “had no idea what this allegation is about” and that the current allegation “is false”.
Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for Sessions, defended the Attorney General in a public statement saying that meetings between Senators, especially those who sit on committees such as the Armed Services Committee, and foreign ambassadors is common, adding that Sessions met with roughly 25 Ambassadors during the last year alone.
“There was absolutely nothing misleading with his answer. He was asked during the hearings about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign- not meetings he took as a senator and member of the Armed Services Committee.” Flores said in the statement.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri also came to Sessions’ defense Thursday saying that meetings between foreign officials and U.S. Senators is commonplace.
“I’ve talked to at least 20 ambassadors in the last six-weeks. It would have been very normal for Sessions, as a senator, to have talked to the Russian ambassador without discussing the election.” Blunt said in an interview defending Sessions.
on OWhen asked about contact the Russian government had with Sessions, the Russian Embassy released a statement downplaying media reports involving communication between the Russian government and U.S. officials saying that Russia was “in regular contact with its U.S. partners
During interviews Thursday morning, Sessions appeared reluctant to formally recuse himself from all investigations involving the Trump administration and the alleged Russian hacking, but had told NBC News that “whenever it’s appropriate I will recuse myself, no doubt about that.”
Senator Franken gave an interview on CNN, in which he said that even with the best possible spin, the comments made by Sessions were at the very least “misleading”.
“At the very least, this was extremely misleading. He made a bald statement that during the campaign he had not met with the Russians. That’s not true.” Franken said of Sessions and his testimony.
During his late Thursday afternoon press conference, Sessions again reiterated his clarification on the comments regarding contact with Russian officials during the campaign.
“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.” Sessions told reporters.
“I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign.” He followed up with.
President Trump, before Sessions’ formal recusal, said that he had “total” confidence in Sessions and that he had not been aware of the Attorney General’s meetings with Russian officials this past year.
Even as news if Sessions’ move to recuse himself from all investigation surrounding the White House and Russian ties had spread, Top democrats were still calling for Session’s full resignation.
“There cannot be any scintilla of doubt abut the impartiality and fairness of the Attorney General. It’s clear Attorney General Sessions does not meet that test. For the good of the country, Attorney General Sessions should resign.” Sen. Schumer said in another statement released late Thursday afternoon.
House and Senate Democrats including Franken, Pelosi, and Schumer have called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into the matter and are currently drafting a letter to have the issue brought before the House Judiciary and oversight Committee’s for further investigation and clarification.