Trump’s anti-LGBT Attorney General denies misleading Congress over secret Russia meetings
Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions has denied misleading a Congressional hearing on his meetings with Russia.
Sessions has removed himself from the investigation as Democrats call for him to step down as Attorney General.
The calls come as it is revealed that Sessions met the Russian envoy during the US election campaign.
But in a letter sent on Monday, Sessions denies any wrongdoing, saying his comments at the time were “correct”.
In the letter released by the Department of Justice on Monday, Sessions said he “did not mention communications had with the Russian ambassador over the years because the question did not ask about them.”
During a 10 January confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked: “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government, in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”
It has since been revealed that Sessions had a private meeting in his office with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak.
Despite this, Sessions testified at the hearing that he had “no communications with the Russians”.
Later in the letter, Sessions admits he “spoke briefly” to Kislyak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.
“I do not recall any discussions with the Russian ambassador, or any other representative of the Russian government, regarding the political campaign on these occasions or any other occasion,” he said in the letter.
“I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States,” said Sessions in a statement when he removed himself from the FBI investigation last week.
Speaking at a press conference at the Justice Department, Sessions said his comments were “honest and correct as I understood it at the time”.
“I appreciate that some take the view that this was a false comment. That is not my intent. That is not correct.”
On Thursday, at the press conference, he said: “I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.”
But saying he had been the member of a church group, he later added that “somehow the subject of Ukraine came up”.
Sessions has been at the top of the anti-LGBT lobby within the Trump administration, and was reportedly behind the recent decision to scrap discrimination protections for transgender students.
He is under fire today after revelations that he appeared to have lied to the Senate under oath during his confirmation hearing.
Sessions’ role is particularly harmful given he as Attorney General was expected to lead the investigation into Russia’s election interference.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier today was one of many opponents calling on Sessions to resign.
He said: “The information reported last night makes it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that [Sessions] cannot lead an investigation into Russian interference in our elections or come anywhere near it.
“With these revelations, he may very well become the subject of it. It would be of Alice and Wonderland quality if this administration were to [ask] him to investigate himself.
“This goes beyond that… he had weeks to correct the record that he made before the [Senate] but he left the record stand. There cannot be even a scintilla of doubt about the impartiality and fairness about the Attorney General, the top law enforcement official of the land.
After this, it’s clear Attorney General Sessions does not meet that test. For the good of the country, Attorney General Sessions should resign.”
Sessions brushed off the calls, telling NBC: “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.”
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Asked if he should quit or recuse himself from the Russia investigation, he said: “I have said whenever it’s appropriate, I will recuse myself. There’s no doubt about that.”
During a trip today, Trump insisted to reporters that he had “total confidence” in Sessions.
It is the latest in a string of harmful scandals, fuelling stories about Russian influence in Trump’s White House.
Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was previously forced to resign over secret communications with Russia, while last year Trump was forced to ditch campaign chief Paul Manafort after his ties to Russia became the subject of a CIA probe.