Written by Keshala Dias
03 Mar, 2017 | 6:11 am
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has removed himself from an FBI investigation into alleged Russian interference in the US election.
America’s top prosecutor said he did not lie when he testified at a January confirmation hearing that he had “no communications with the Russians”.
But Democrats are demanding he quit after it emerged he met Moscow’s envoy during last year’s White House race.
Claims of Kremlin meddling in the vote have dogged President Donald Trump.
“I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States,” Sessions said in a statement.
In a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington DC, he said his comments at his confirmation hearing were “honest and correct as I understood it at the time”.
During the Senate hearing on 10 January, Sessions was asked: “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government, in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”
Sessions responded: “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians. And I’m unable to comment on it.”
However, it has now emerged that Sessions and Russia’s Ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak, held a private conversation in Sessions’ office in September and had spoken earlier in the summer at a meeting with several other Ambassadors.
The former Alabama Senator had meetings with more than 25 foreign Ambassadors in the course of the year.
His meetings with Kislyak came while he played a prominent part of Trump’s campaign team – the so-called surrogate – and amid growing reports of Russian meddling in the US election.
Kislyak is the same Ambassador who led to the downfall of Trump’s National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn.
Flynn was fired last month after he misled the White House about his conversations with the Moscow diplomat, allegedly regarding US sanctions.
What did he talk about with the envoy?
At Thursday’s news conference, Sessions said he had spoken with the Russian Ambassador as a US Senator and not as Trump’s surrogate.
He said: “I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.”
Sessions said that during his conversations with the Russian Ambassador, he told Kislyak he had once been to Russia with a church group in 1991.
He said the envoy had told him he was not a believer himself, though he welcomed having “church people” visit his country.
Sessions said they went on to talk about terrorism and then “somehow the subject of Ukraine came up”.
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