President Donald Trump said that he retains full confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the wake of revelations about the then-senator’s undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador to the US. The president’s comments came during a tour of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford in Newport News, Virginia, where he traveled to give a speech on defense, Efe news agency reported.
Expressing “total” confidence in the attorney general, Trump said that he “wasn’t aware at all” that Sessions, then still a senator from Alabama, met with Russian envoy Sergei Kislyak on two occasions during the 2016 presidential campaign. The Washington Post first reported on the encounters.
The Justice Department subsequently confirmed that Sessions met with Kislyak in the Alabama Republican’s then-capacity as member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Amid allegations of Russian meddling in the elections, Sessions said in January during a hearing on his nomination to serve as attorney general that he was “not aware” of any communications between the Trump campaign and Russia.
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“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn’t have – did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it,” he said under questioning by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
The disclosure of his meetings with the ambassador has brought calls from Democratic lawmakers – and even some Republicans – for Sessions to recuse himself from any investigation of Russia’s ostensible role in the elections.
Trump said Thursday that he thought Sessions “probably” told the truth at his confirmation hearing. Asked whether the attorney general should recuse himself from the Russia probe, the president said: “I don’t think so.”
The leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate, New York’s Chuck Schumer, said earlier Thursday that Sessions should resign and he called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation of Russia and the elections.