Top Democrats demanded that President Trump's attorney general Jeff Sessions resign after Justice Department officials confirmed Wednesday that he had communications with Russian diplomats after seemingly denying those contacts during his confirmation hearings.
And we need Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who should have never been confirmed in the first place – to resign. We need it now.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 2, 2017
The Washington Post broke the story Wednesday evening:
Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.
One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) and others in claiming the new report of Russian contact is so egregious after his confirmation denials that Sessions should resign.
Sessions' spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said “There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer," and added the missing context of his interactions with the Russian government.
“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,” Flores said.
She added that Sessions last year had more than 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian and German ambassadors, in addition to Kislyak.
In the case of the September meeting, one department official who came to the defense of the attorney general said, “There’s just not strong recollection of what was said.”
Sessions' opponents promulgated the video of his denial of Russian contacts during his confirmation hearing as he was questioned by Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.). In that exchange, Sessions freely volunteered that he did not have contact with "the Russians."
"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?" Franken asked.
"Senator Franken," Sessions responded, "I'm not aware of any of those activities, I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn't have communications with the Russians, and I'm unable to comment on it."
Sessions on Jan 10: "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians." pic.twitter.com/2cyVbHOsWm
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) March 2, 2017
Critics note that Sessions appears to refer to any communications with Russians, while Trump supporters say that his comments were fully within the context of talking about the campaign, which would not preclude him from talking to Russians in his capacity as a Senator.
Nancy Pelosi released a statement demanding the resignation, saying,"[Attorney General] Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign."
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (R-N.Y.) made his demand conditional upon more evidence that Sessions actually lied under oath.
If it turns out Sessions lied under oath, he of course will be sbjct to criminal prosecution & shld immediately res… https://t.co/jXJqtyxMgT— Rep. Nadler (@Rep. Nadler) 1488423818.0
Attorney General Sessions released a statement saying that the allegations were completely false.
I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.
The story broke during a CNN townhall special with Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who said that if the story was true that there would necessarily follow that a special prosecutor would be needed to assure objectivity into the investigation of Trump's involvement with the Russians.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 2, 2017
Sessions was pivotal in Trump's election as he was one of the first senators to endorse the real estate mogul during the primary election.
He was confirmed as attorney general despite accusations from democrats that he was a racist, including an episode in which Senator Liz Warren was made to sit down after breaking Congressional rules of decorum by directly criticizing Sessions during a speech.