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AG Sessions to Recuse Himself From Investigating Trump Ties to Russia

Trump’s attorney general maintains he spoke “honestly and correctly” during hearings, but will recuse himself from any investigation involving Trump ties.

jeffy-sesh

Just hours after President Donald Trump said he had full confidence in him, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Thursday he would recuse himself from an investigation into potential ties between the Trump administration and Russia.

Sessions’s announcement comes a day after it was revealed that the new attorney general, who swore he had not had contact with Russian officials during his confirmation hearings, had indeed spoken twice with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the election.

Just hours after President Donald Trump said he had full confidence in him, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Thursday he would recuse himself from an investigation into potential ties between the Trump administration and Russia.

Sessions’s announcement comes a day after it was revealed that the new attorney general, who swore he had not had contact with Russian officials during his confirmation hearings, had indeed spoken twice with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the election.

Sessions insisted that he actually answered the questions honestly, because “I never had meetings with Russian operatives or government intermediaries about the Trump campaign.”

The question he was asked at his confirmation hearing, posed by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was, “If there was any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this [2016] campaign, what would you do?”

In response, Sessions said, “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

He met with the Russian ambassador, who is literally a Russian intermediary, in July and again on Sept. 8.

Sessions recalled some portions of the September meeting with Kislyak during his press conference. He recalled telling the envoy he had gone to Russia with a church group in 1991, but that Kislyak was an “old-school, Soviet type” and not a believer. He also recalled discussing terrorism and Ukraine. Sessions said the Russian ambassador defended Moscow’s actions there, and that it “got to be a little bit of a testy conversation at that point.”

He also said that Kislyak invited him to lunch, but that he did not accept that offer. Another declined invite came right after: The Trump team declined to meet with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko when he was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly in late September.

Sessions maintains he spoke honestly and correctly during the hearing, though admitted it would have been better to add, “But I did meet with this one Russian official a couple of times.”

Sessions said that he had already been discussing with his staff whether he should be involved in any investigation of Trump and Russia, and said he was advised by them to recuse himself. He stressed that “this announcement should not be interpreted as confirmation of the existence of any investigation or suggestive of the scope of any such investigation.”

The investigation would involve ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. The Trump administration previously denied having contact with Russian officials during the campaign; this was later reported to be incorrect. Further, after the campaign but before Trump’s inauguration, Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn spoke to Kislyak about sanctions on Russia. That same month, Flynn and Trump’s senior advisor/son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met with Kislyak in Trump Tower.

Photo credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin