President Donald Trump’s newly appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign. Sessions announced his hasty decision on Thursday during a press conference at the Justice Department.
“I have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States,” Sessions said briefly. “I feel I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in.”
His recusal means that Sessions will fully give up his power to head the investigation, not receiving any briefings on Russian interference in the U.S. election.
Sessions’ announcement followed revelations over his contact with the Russian ambassador, which rapidly developed over the past few days. The Washington Post broke the news Wednesday that Sessions spoke with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in July and September. Throughout these meetings, Sessions was also a top foreign policy advisor to then-GOP nominee Trump.
Considering the evidence that the Kremlin state hugely interfered in the U.S. presidential election, these meetings are, well, troublesome. To top it off, Sessions said in a presumable lie under oath that he never talked to Russian officials. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned in February over similar contacts with Russia, less than one month into his new job.
This revelation triggered a call for Sessions to recuse himself from the Justice Department investigation into the 2016 election. The outcry for Sessions to step back, if not resign, even had bipartisan support—something that’s becoming increasingly rare in our current Congress.
“In retrospect, I should have slowed down and said, ‘But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times, and that would be the ambassador,’” Sessions said, according to The New York Times.
The White House declared its full support for Sessions. “He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional,” President Trump said in a Facebook statement. Trump characteristically blamed the entire scandal on Democrats being sore losers. “The Democrats are overplaying their hand," Trump continued. "They lost the election and now, they have lost their grip on reality. The real story is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total witch hunt!"
Sessions continued to deny that the meetings had anything to do with the Trump campaign. He said “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” adding that all accusations claiming otherwise were false.