On Thursday, Donald Trump defended his attorney general, who is the target of new accusations concerning supposed contacts between his team and Russian officials during last year’s presidential campaign.
Jeff Sessions, an ally of the American president and who inspired Trump’s anti-immigration politics, admitted to meeting twice with the Russian ambassador in the United States last year, which seems to contradict his recent statements.
The Democratic opposition demanded the attorney general’s resignation and the nomination of a special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s attempts to interfere with the American electoral process.
But while traveling on the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier in Virginia, Trump expressed “total” confidence in his attorney general, all the while adding that he was “not aware” of Sessions’ contact with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak.
Sessions, a former senator, is the second official close to the billionaire to be accused of not having been entirely truthful about his contacts with Russian officials, after Michael Flynn, who resigned on Feb. 13 from his post as national security advisor.
This clandestine affair has poisoned the presidential debut of Barack Obama’s successor and fed suspicions concerning growing ties with Moscow.
Unease Intensifies Within the Majority
Several Republican elected officials have defended Sessions, but calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate potential links between Trump’s team and Russian officials are becoming louder and more urgent.
Under the Obama administration, Washington publicly accused Moscow of engaging in a campaign of hacking and interference in an attempt to discredit Hillary Clinton before the election on November 8. Donald Trump has denied any collusion with Russia.
Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia, even though the FBI investigation uncovered evidence of contact between members of Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin, according to several media reports.
However, Paul Ryan, Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, emphasized that “we have not seen any evidence” implicating any member of Trump’s team.
Sessions admitted having met with Ambassador Kislyak after a speech in July, then again in his senate office in September, as The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening.
He maintained that the meetings were aboveboard and within the scope of his responsibilities as a senator.
Previously, Sessions swore before the Senate during his confirmation hearing in January that he had not had “communications with the Russians,” which Democrats take for a lie or even perjury. The attorney general clarified in an NBC interview on Tuesday that he had “never met with any Russian officials to discuss the issues of the campaign.”
Because the Department of Justice should be above reproach, for the good of the country Attorney General Sessions should resign,” stated Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Sessions’ current responsibilities are at the heart of the issue.
The attorney general oversees the FBI and thus the investigation conducted by American authorities concerning Russian interference.
In February, the revelation that Michael Flynn had brought up the subject of sanctions against Russia with Ambassador Kislyak over the phone in December forced Trump to demand his resignation.
This new incident puts the American head of state on the political defensive, at the very moment during which he hoped to implement a host of reforms.
Prominent elected officials have suggested that it would be simpler if Sessions recused himself so that he no longer has any supervisory power over FBI investigations.
This is an option that Sessions didn’t exclude. “I have said whenever it’s appropriate, I will recuse myself. There’s no doubt about that,” he stated.
But a simple recusal is no longer enough to satisfy Democrats, who should concentrate their efforts on demanding the appointment of an independent or “special” prosecutor.
Such a prosecutor would be similar to the one appointed during Bill Clinton’s presidency to investigate the Whitewater real estate affair. After several years, these investigations gave rise to the Monica Lewinsky affair and led to the indictment of the Democratic president by the House of Representatives in 1998.