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Democrats Call for Sessions to Recuse Himself From Russia Inquiry

March 2, 2017 8:14 AM
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Democrats Call for Sessions to Recuse Himself From Russia Inquiry

“I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” Mr. Sessions said. “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

The clash was the latest escalation in the continuing fallout from what intelligence officials have concluded was Russian interference in the 2016 election to help President Trump, including by hacking Democratic emails and providing them to WikiLeaks for release.

Also read: Trump goes off-script and fumes about Sessions and Russia probe

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Publish Date

March 2, 2017 8:20 AM

But Mr. Trump stoutly defended Mr. Sessions, one of his few early champions on Capitol Hill. “He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional,” he said in a statement, which accused Democrats of engaging in “a total witch hunt.”

New York edition

March 2, 2017 8:18 AM

Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself exposed a rift between the White House and the Justice Department, not only over whether he should do so — Mr. Trump said he did not think Mr. Sessions needed to — but over the president’s public statements. A Justice Department official confessed puzzlement about why the White House regularly asserted that no one from the Trump campaign had any contact with the Russian government.

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March 2, 2017 8:17 AM

With Mr. Sessions’s recusal, any Justice Department investigation would be overseen by the deputy attorney general. Dana Boente is currently serving in an acting capacity from his role as the chief federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of Virginia. A Senate hearing is scheduled for Tuesday for the nomination of Rod J. Rosenstein as deputy attorney general; he would oversee the issue if he is confirmed, and his hearing is now likely to be dominated by questions about the Russia issue.

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March 2, 2017 8:17 AM

Touring the Gerald R. Ford, the newest American aircraft carrier, Mr. Trump said that he “wasn’t aware” that Mr. Sessions had spoken to the ambassador, but that he believed the attorney general had testified truthfully to the Senate during his confirmation hearing.

New York edition

March 2, 2017 8:17 AM

With Mr. Sessions’s recusal, any Justice Department investigation would be overseen by the deputy attorney general. Dana J. Boente is currently serving in an acting capacity from his role as the chief federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of Virginia. A Senate hearing is scheduled for Tuesday for the nomination of Rod J. Rosenstein as deputy attorney general; he would oversee the issue if he is confirmed, and his hearing is now likely to be dominated by questions about the Russia issue.

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March 2, 2017 8:17 AM

Mr. Sessions insisted there was nothing nefarious about his two meetings with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, even though he did not disclose them to the Senate during his confirmation hearing and they occurred during the heat of the race between Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, and Mr. Trump, whom Mr. Sessions was advising on national security.

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March 2, 2017 8:17 AM

It is not clear if the Justice Department is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, although the F.B.I. is known to have examined possible contacts between Russia and Trump advisers. The House Intelligence Committee has also opened an inquiry into whether Russia tried to influence the election.

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March 2, 2017 8:17 AM

The extent and frequency of the Flynn-Kislyak contacts remain unclear. But news of the meeting added to the emerging picture of how the relationship between Mr. Trump’s team and Moscow evolved to include some of Mr. Trump’s most trusted advisers.

Publish Date

March 2, 2017 8:16 AM

“Somehow, the subject of Ukraine came up,” Mr. Sessions said, recalling that the meeting grew testy after the ambassador defended Russia’s conduct toward its neighbor and heaped blame on everybody else. “I thought he was pretty much of an old-style, Soviet-type ambassador,” Mr. Sessions said, noting that he declined a lunch invitation from Mr. Kislyak.

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March 2, 2017 8:16 AM

The partisan furor that broke out with the Justice Department’s acknowledgment of the contacts late Wednesday began to take on a bipartisan sheen as the controversy spilled into Thursday morning.

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March 2, 2017 8:15 AM

Asked whether Mr. Sessions should recuse himself in the Russia investigations, the president said, “I don’t think so.”

Publish Date

March 2, 2017 8:15 AM

“I think he probably did,” Mr. Trump told reporters.

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March 2, 2017 8:15 AM

Many top Democrats demanded Mr. Sessions’s resignation, and a growing number of Republicans declared that he should not take part in any investigation into the case, given his own still largely unexplained role in it.

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March 2, 2017 8:14 AM

On Thursday, the White House confirmed that Mr. Flynn had his own previously undisclosed meeting with the ambassador in December to “establish a line of communication” between the incoming administration and the Russian government. Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and now a senior adviser, also participated in the meeting at Trump Tower.

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March 2, 2017 8:14 AM

Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself was one of his first public acts as attorney general. He said he made the decision after consulting with Justice Department officials, and he denied misleading Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, when he said in his confirmation hearing that he had not met with Russian officials about the Trump campaign.

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March 2, 2017 8:14 AM

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions, facing a storm of criticism over newly disclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, recused himself on Thursday from any investigation into charges that meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

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March 2, 2017 8:14 AM

“In retrospect,” Mr. Sessions told reporters, “I should have slowed down and said, ‘But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times, and that would be the ambassador.’”

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March 2, 2017 8:14 AM

Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican who leads the Oversight Committee, on Thursday, “AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself.” Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, said in a statement: “Jeff Sessions is a former colleague and a friend, but I think it would be best for him and for the country to recuse himself from the D.O.J. Russia probe.”