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HomeNewsPoliticsAttorney General Jeff Sessions Will Recuse Himself From Probes Into Presidential Campaigns

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Will Recuse Himself From Probes Into Presidential Campaigns

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the Justice Department in Washington, March 2, 2017.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the Justice Department in Washington, March 2, 2017.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the Justice Department in Washington, March 2, 2017.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said during a press conference he will recuse himself from any existing or future probes related to any campaigns for president. The move comes after a Washington Post reported Wednesday night claimed he had two previously undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. in 2016 after he started supporting Donald Trump’s presidential bid.

Democrats say he failed to disclose those contacts–one being a public party with many other people hosted by The Heritage Foundation, and the other in an official capacity as U.S. senator–during his confirmation hearing.

“Let me be clear: I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Attorney General Sessions told reporters. “And the idea that I was part of a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries to the Russian government are false.”

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In a statement, Mr. Sessions said that over the last several weeks he has been meeting with “relevant senior career department officials” over whether he should recuse himself and “having concluded those meetings today, I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States.”

AG Sessions further said that his answer to Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., during his confirmation hearing for attorney general “was honest and correct as I understood it at the time.”

“In the end, I have followed the right procedure, just as I promised the committee I would,” he said of the decision to recuse himself. “A proper decision, I believe, has been reached.”

Sen. Franken had asked about CNN and Washington Post reports citing unnamed sources claiming top campaign officials had multiple contacts with Russian intel agents during the election, claims that are vehemently disputed by sources at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI has said publicly that no such connection has been made after thorough investigation.

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Earlier today in Virginia, Trump said he had “total” confidence in Sessions and didn’t think he should even recuse himself. A White House official dismissed the matter as “the latest attack against the Trump administration by partisan Democrats.”

“This is the latest attack on the Trump Administration by partisan Democrats. General Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony,” the White House said in a statement. “It’s no surprise Senator Al Franken is pushing this story immediately following President Trump’s successful address to the nation.”

A Department of Justice official confirmed Wednesday night that Mr. Sessions did have two contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but not in a campaign capacity. One with members of his staff on Sept. 8, which was listed on his public schedule, and another after giving a speech to the Heritage Foundation in July.

“So we talked a little bit about terrorism, as I recall. Somehow the subject of the Ukraine came up,” he said. “I had the Ukrainian ambassador in my office the day before to listen to him. Nothing that — Russia had done nothing that was wrong in any area and everybody else was wrong with regard to the Ukraine. It got to be a little bit of a testy conversation at that point.”

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A DOJ spokeswoman said in a statement Wednesday night saying that the meetings came as part of Sessions’ role at the time as a senator on the Armed Services Committee and that his answers during the confirmation process were not “misleading.”

“There is absolutely nothing misleading about his answer. Last year, the Senator had over 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian, German and Russian ambassadors,” the statement said. “He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign–not about meetings he took as a senator and member of the Armed Services Committee.”

But that isn’t stopping House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., or Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., from calling for his resignation. When Sessions recuses himself from any case, it falls to acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Eventually, Rod Rosenstein, currently the U.S. attorney for Maryland, who has not been confirmed yet, will take his place. His confirmation hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 7.

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