Pressure mounts for US Attorney General Sessions to resign over Russia contacts
WASHINGTONThe U.S.’s top lawyer faced increasing scrutiny on March 1 after reports alleged he twice contacted Russian officials during the run-up to last year’s presidential elections.
Jeff Sessions, while still a U.S. senator, spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador, encounters he did not disclose when asked during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general about possible contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, The Washington Post reported on March 1, citing Justice Department officials, Reuters reported.
One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak that took place in September last year in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race, the Post reported.
The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election, the Post said.
At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Democratic Senator Al Franken what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign, the Post reported.
“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions responded, according to the Post. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign.”
The attorney general said: “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
Sessions, asked on March 2 about his participation in any investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign, said he would recuse himself when “appropriate,” NBC News reported.
“Whenever it’s appropriate I will recuse myself, there’s no doubt about that,” Sessions told the network, after saying: “I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign.”
U.S. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called on Sessions to resign on March 1 after the Washington Post report.
Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, called for Sessions to resign and for an independent, bipartisan investigation into Trump’s possible ties to Russians.
“Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign,” she said in a statement.
Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was fired last month after he discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with Kislyak before Trump took office and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.
As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. Sessions has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.