Following an uproar regarding communications with Russia’s ambassador, newly appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced on Thursday to recuse himself from enquiries involving Russia’s alleged meddling in the presidential election, according to a report in the New York Times.
Sessions held at least two talks with the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, but even though he was a key adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign, he told the Senate during his confirmation hearings that those talks were unrelated to the election.
Trump reaffirmed his support for his attorney general, claiming he was unaware of Sessions’s talks with the Russian ambassador.
In a statement issued shortly before midnight, Sessions said that during his conversations with Kislyak election matters were not discussed. “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” he said. “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
But, many Democrats in Congress have been calling for him to recuse himself and today several Republicans joined the move.
Contact between members of Trump’s staff and Russians has been a matter of contention since the campaign, with reports of Russian interference in the election process. Last month, Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, was forced to resign after it became clear that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about talks he had with Kislyak.
A spokesperson for the Justice Department said in his capacity as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sessions held at least 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors, including those from Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Poland and Russia.
But Democrats, such as Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, called for the AG to resign because he let a “demonstrably false” statement stand for weeks without correcting the public record.
“There is no longer any question that we need a truly independent commission to investigate this issue,” the Times quoted Cummings.