House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says former Attorney General Loretta Lynch's "social encounter" with former President Bill Clinton amid the Justice Department's investigation into Hillary Clinton and her emails is "completely different" from Attorney General Jeff Sessions' alleged Russia contacts, adding the reason she called for Sessions' resignation while refusing to call for Lynch to step down was because of Sessions' involvement with President Donald Trump's campaign.
Pelosi is one of several Democrats who are now calling on Sessions to resign in the wake of a Washington Post report that, despite saying during his Senate confirmation hearing he did not discuss with Russian officials anything having to do with Trump's campaign, Sessions did, in fact, meet with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice in 2016. However, Sessions, who was a Republican senator from Alabama and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee at the time of the meetings, has stated that he met with the ambassador in a senatorial capacity unrelated to the presidential campaign.
Sessions announced Thursday that he would recuse himself from any investigations into the Trump campaign.
While Sessions and Lynch's circumstances might seem virtually the same in terms of possible conflicts of interest, Pelosi insisted Thursday that "there couldn't be a starker difference between the two.
Lynch was criticized in June 2016 after she met privately with Bill Clinton onboard a private airplane at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Lynch was in Phoenix as part of a national tour to promote community policing. The former president was scheduled to depart from the airport the same evening as Lynch, but instead of departing as planned, he waited for Lynch to arrive on the tarmac. Upon Lynch's arrival, Clinton boarded her plane, where the two spoke for roughly 30 minutes. The conversation occurred as the FBI was still investigating Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server.
A reporter asked Pelosi, who did not call for Lynch's resignation or recusal, about the two seemingly similar scenarios during a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday: "Is there consistency here on this on the Democratic side when there were issues with Attorney General Lynch and her contacts and whether or not she should have stepped aside? Is there consistency or not?"
Pelosi responded by saying, "Attorney General Lynch had a social encounter — serendipitous, some might say, that the former president of the United States came by to say hello and discuss their grandchildren. She did not have a major role in the Hillary Clinton campaign."
"This is a completely different thing," Pelosi said, adding the reason she wants Sessions to resign is because of his campaign involvement.
Sessions was not formally part of the Trump campaign but was the first senator to endorse Trump and often appeared as a surrogate.
"He was a very important part. He was one of the first in the Congress to endorse President Trump. And now we see that he has not told the truth if he had conversations with the Russians," Pelosi said. "If they were innocuous, why not admit it instead of lying about it?"
"So it couldn't be more stark in terms of relationship to the campaign and who the attorney general was speaking to," Pelosi concluded.
Sessions said both during his Senate confirmation hearing and while announcing his recusal Thursday that while he did talk with the Russian ambassador, the two did not discuss anything about the 2016 campaign.
During the Jan. 2017 hearing, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) cited a just-published CNN report in which Russian officials reportedly claimed to have compromising information about Trump, which could have been used for blackmail purposes. Franken noted the report was not verified.
"But if it's true, it's obviously extremely serious. And if there is any evidence that anyone with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?" Franken asked Sessions.
"I have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians and I'm unable to comment on it," Sessions said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also submitted to Sessions a written question about Russia: “Several of the president-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?”
Then-Alabama Sen. Sessions responded, "No."
Sessions' spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, said there was "nothing misleading" about Sessions' answer.
“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 Wednesday, according to the Washington Post.
(H/T: Daily Caller)