Sessions moves to quell the storm

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions answering questions during a press conference at the Department of Justice on March 2, 2017 in Washington, DC.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions answering questions during a press conference at the Department of Justice on March 2, 2017 in Washington, DC.PHOTO: AFP

A-G to recuse himself from probe into Russian election meddling

WASHINGTON • US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions said yesterday that he will recuse himself "whenever it's appropriate" from a Justice Department probe into alleged ties between Mr Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government, after he came under fire himself for contacts with Moscow.

Mr Sessions met Russia's ambassador to Washington twice last year, the White House confirmed - seemingly in contradiction of statements that he made in Senate confirmation hearings in January.

In his brief remarks with NBC News, Mr Sessions repeated his denial of any wrongdoing.

He said: "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. And I don't have anything else to say about that."

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, said yesterday that Mr Sessions should recuse himself from the investigations into the alleged election interference. To maintain "the trust of the American people, you recuse yourself in these situations", Mr McCarthy said during an appearance on MSNBC. He noted that it would "be easier" for the public to have confidence in the investigations if Mr Sessions bowed out.

Another Republican, Mr Jason Chaffetz, who is chairman of the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said on Twitter that Mr Sessions should "clarify his testimony" about his contacts with Russian officials.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called for answers on Russian ties but cautioned that contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow "may be legitimate".

"If there were contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, they may be legitimate; they may be okay. I want to know what happened between the Trump campaign, the Clinton campaign and the Russians," he said at a CNN town hall on Wednesday.

Democrats have also called for Mr Sessions to recuse himself from the investigations and for Congress to name an independent special investigator to oversee a broad probe.

Ms Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the Senate, called for Mr Sessions to step down.

"After lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney-General must resign," she said.

The White House quickly labelled the Wednesday report a partisan attack. It argued that Mr Sessions did not do anything wrong.

"This is the latest attack against the Trump administration by partisan Democrats," an official said. "Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2017, with the headline 'Sessions moves to quell the storm'. Print Edition | Subscribe