By Jesse Rice
On Thursday, March 2, Attorney General Jeff Sessions withdrew from the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election, responding to reports condemning him for failing to disclose to the Senate his two meetings with the Russian Ambassador.
On March 1, The Washington Post reported Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice in 2016, while Sessions was still a senator but also held a role on the Trump campaign. However, during his Senate confirmation hearings, Sessions denied having any contact with Russia. In the January hearings, he said, “I did not have communications with the Russians,” reports Al Jazeera.
Democratic senators responded angrily to the report, according the BBC; especially since Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn recently resigned over charges of inappropriate communication with the Russian Ambassador. Reuters reports Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called for Sessions to resign. Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) posted on Twitter that Sessions should clarify his testimony and withdraw from the Russia investigations.
In light of the mounting pressure from both sides, Sessions withdrew from the investigations into Russian interference with the election on Thursday, March 2. Sessions continues to hold that he did nothing wrong, but felt it was not appropriate to be investigating a campaign which he was involved in, reports the LA Times. In his recusal announcement, according to Al Jazeera, Sessions clarified, “I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign.”
According to the BBC, Sarah Isgur Flores, spokeswoman for the Justice Department, argued that Sessions’ statement to the Senate was accurate as “he was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign – not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee.”
However, The Washington Post reports the conversation differently. During the confirmation hearings, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked Sessions, “Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Sessions responded, “No.”
Reuters reports President Trump called the entire issue “a total witch hunt” by Democrats. According to the NY Times, President Trump believed Sessions’ answered honestly during the confirmation hearing. Despite this controversy, Sessions continues to have Trump’s full support.