President Donald Trump has weighed in on Jeff Sessions, and said in no uncertain terms: he has “total” confidence in his Attorney General.
That statement was a push-back against against high-profile establishment Republicans, a growing number of which joined with Democratic leaders Thursday in calling for Sessions to step aside from an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 White House election. Trump said there was no need.
Far left Democrats demanded that Sessions go further than merely stepping aside from any investigations. They’re calling for him to resign as the nation’s top law enforcement officer.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi accused Sessions of “lying under oath,” and she and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he should depart. Schumer said the Justice Department should appoint a special prosecutor to examine whether the federal investigation into the Kremlin’s meddling in the U.S. election has been compromised by Sessions.
“I have said that, when it’s appropriate, I will recuse myself” from the investigation, Sessions told MSNBC on Thursday.
Trump, asked if Sessions should recuse himself, said Thursday, “I don’t think so.” He was questioned in Newport News, Virginia, where he was speaking aboard a new aircraft carrier.
Trump supporters have noted there is nothing unusual about a member of Congress meeting with a foreign ambassador.
At least three House Republicans — Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Darrell Issa of California and Tom Cole of Oklahoma — have said they want Sessions to withdraw from investigation of campaign contacts with the Russians. And GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said that while Sessions was a former colleague and a friend, “I think it would be best for him and for the country to recuse himself.”
The attorney general “is going to need to recuse himself at this point,” Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told MSNBC.
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House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif, said he thought Sessions “needs to clarify what these meetings were.” He said it isn’t unusual for members of Congress to meet with ambassadors, but he added that if a question arose about the integrity of a federal investigation, “I think it’d be easier” for an attorney general to step away.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Sessions should only recuse himself if he is a subject of the probe.
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The Associated Press contributed to this article