Trump’s attorney general removes himself from campaign probes
WASHINGTONU.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on March 2 that he would stay out of any probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election but maintained he did nothing wrong by failing to disclose he met last year with Russia’s ambassador.
Sessions, a longtime U.S. senator who was an early and high-ranking player in U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign before becoming the country’s top law enforcement official, announced the decision after several fellow Republicans in Congress suggested the move would be appropriate.
“I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign,” Sessions told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference.
Sessions said he had been weighing recusal - ruling himself out from any role in the investigations - even before the latest twist of the controversy over ties between Trump associates and Russia that has dogged the early days of the Trump presidency.
The president backed Sessions, calling Sessions “an honest man” who did nothing wrong and saying Democrats had politicized the issue and calling the controversy a “total witch hunt.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said on March 3 that the U.S. political scandal over contacts between the Russian ambassador and Sessions looked like “a witch hunt,” the RIA news agency reported.
Sessions’ announcement did nothing to quell concerns among congressional Democrats, a number of whom called for Sessions to step down.
Trump and Republicans who control Congress are trying to move past early administration missteps and focus on issues important to them, including immigration, tax cuts and repealing the Obamacare healthcare law.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Russia hacked and leaked Democratic emails during the election campaign as part of an effort to tilt the vote in Trump’s favor. The Kremlin has denied the allegations.
Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence used a private email account for matters of public business as governor of Indiana, U.S. media reported on March 2.
Emails obtained by that state’s daily Indianapolis Star newspaper showed that Pence used the private account - which the paper said was hacked last summer - to at times discuss “sensitive matters” and “homeland security issues.”
The Star, which obtained the emails in a public records request, said that in response to its investigation the vice president’s office confirmed that “Mike Pence maintained a state email account and a personal account.”
“As Governor, Mr. Pence fully complied with Indiana law regarding email use and retention,” his office told the paper.
“Government emails involving his state and personal accounts are being archived by the state consistent with Indiana law, and are being managed according to Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act.”
As Trump’s running mate on the 2016 campaign trail, Pence criticized the Republican’s rival Hillary Clinton for using a private email server for official communications - a scandal that haunted her throughout the race.