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Jeff Sessions And The White House Are Fighting Back


Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the White House on Thursday morning pushed back on calls he resign or recuse himself from a federal investigation into Russia’s influencing the election.
It was revealed Wednesday night that while Sessions testified at his Senate confirmation hearing that he did not have contact with Russians during the campaign, in fact he did — twice. The Washington Post, which broke the news, revealed that Sessions had personally communicated with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, including one September meeting in his own Senate office.
Since then, Democratic and Republican members of Congress have called for Sessions to no longer participate in the FBI investigation — or step down altogether — for not revealing the contacts.
“I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign. And those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false,” Sessions told NBC News on Thursday morning.
“I’ve said that whenever it’s appropriate, I will recuse myself,” he added. “There’s no doubt about that.”
In a statement released Thursday morning, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders called the issue “the latest attack against the Trump administration by partisan Democrats” — even though Republicans were also among those calling for Sessions to be held accountable.
Sanders added that it was “no surprise Senator Al Franken is pushing this story immediately following President Trump’s successful address to the nation.”
On Jan. 10, Sen. Franken asked Sessions what he would do if he learned that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign had been in contact with Russian officials during the election.
During that hearing, Sessions claimed that he was “not aware of any of those activities.”
He went on to say, “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
When asked on CNN on Thursday if he thought Sessions had lied to him during his confirmation hearing, Franken said, “I would say at the very least this was extremely misleading.”
The senator added that he initially posed the question expecting Sessions to state that he would recuse himself from the investigation if he felt it necessary.
“Whether he in his head thought that he was answering whether he had talked to any Russians about the campaign, then he should have said so,” Franken said.
“He should have said, ‘I met with the Russian ambassador a couple times, but we didn’t discuss the campaign.’ But then his office shouldn’t come out with an explanation saying he talked with the Russian ambassador but doesn’t remember what they talked about,” Franken said.
Win Mcnamee / Getty Images
Sessions first responded to the revelations in a statement Wednesday night: “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
Members of Congress continued to react to the news on Thursday morning, including top Republicans.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican who heads the House Oversight Committee, tweeted Thursday that Sessions should “clarify his testimony and recuse himself.”
GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told MSNBC that he didn’t see anything “serious” about Sessions’ recollection of his meeting with the Russian ambassador, but maintained that he should clarify what the meetings were and why he had them.
“I just think for any investigation going forward, you want to make sure everybody trusts the investigation,” he said.
When asked directly if that objective would require Sessions’ recusal, McCarthy said, “I think it’d be easier at that standpoint, yes.”
Speaking later on Fox News, however, McCarthy denied calling on Sessions to recuse himself. “I was asked on Morning Joe if he needs to recuse himself as going forward,” he told Fox & Friends.
“As you just heard, Attorney General Sessions said he would rescue himself going forward — appropriate, and that’s all my answer was. It’s amazing how people spin things so quickly,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called on Sessions to resign, saying the Justice Department needs to appoint a special prosecutor to continue the investigation.
“The information reported last night makes it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that Attorney General Sessions cannot possibly lead an investigation into Russian interference or come anywhere near it,” Schumer said. “With these revelations, he may very well become the subject of it.”
“Because the Department of Justice should be above reproach, for the good of the country, Attorney General Sessions should resign,” the Senate minority leader said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said during a press conference on Thursday that Sessions should resign, accusing him of lying under oath.
“The fact that the attorney general, the top cop in our country, lied under oath to the American people is grounds for him to resign,” she said. “He has proved that he is unqualified and unfit to serve in that position of trust.”
Pelosi added that Democrats have been calling for Sessions’ recusal for weeks due to his connection to the Trump campaign.
“And now we see that he, himself, needs an investigation for lying. It’s against the law, and the top law enforcement officer should know that. The administration clearly cannot be trusted to investigate itself,” she said.
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, in an apparent attempt to discredit Sessions’ claims that he only met with Russian ambassadors in his capacity as a member of the Armed Services Committee, tweeted Thursday morning that she had not met with any Russian officials in her 10 years on the committee.
People on Twitter pointed out, however, that McCaskill had previously tweeted about meeting with the Russian ambassador on at least two occasions.
McCaskill later tweeted that she had attended a meeting with many senators four years ago that the Russian ambassador had also attended.

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