Attorney General Jeff Sessions talked twice with Russia’s ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign, the Justice Department confirmed, communications that spurred calls in Congress for him to recuse himself from an investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election.
Sessions, an early supporter of President Donald Trump‘s candidacy and a policy adviser to the Republican, did not disclose those discussions at his Senate confirmation hearing in January when asked what he would do if “anyone affiliated” with the campaign had been in contact with officials of the Russian government.
Sessions replied that he had not had communications with the Russians.
In a statement late Wednesday, Sessions said, “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.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Wednesday night that “there was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer.”
That statement did not satisfy Democrats, who even before Wednesday had sought his recusal from the ongoing federal investigation and had raised questions about whether he could properly oversee the probe.
Sessions said Thursday in a brief interview with NBC, “I have said that, when it’s appropriate, I will recuse myself.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier called the disclosure of the talks with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, “the latest attack against the Trump administration by partisan Democrats.” She added that 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.”
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi accused Sessions of “lying under oath” and demanded that he resign. Other Democrats called on him to step aside from the investigation.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, appearing Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, “I just think he needs to clarify what these meetings