Update: Jeff Sessions will recuse himself from investigations into potential Russian interference in the 2016 election. Some Democrats continue to call for a special prosecutor.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, an Aurora Republican, joined a small but growing number of Republicans Thursday who have called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from any investigations into contacts between the Russian government and President Donald Trump and his associates.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Sessions had contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice during Trump’s campaign, when Sessions was still in the Senate and campaigning on Trump’s behalf.
Many Democrats, on the other hand, are calling for Sessions to resign because he may have lied about not having contact with Russia during his confirmation hearings. U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, said Sessions should “resign or be removed” and she also called for a special prosecutor investigate the administration’s ties to Russia.
“Attorney General Sessions’ contact with the Russian ambassador while an advisor to the Trump campaign once again proves this administration’s causal relationship with transparency and the truth,” she said in a statement. “If these revelations are true, he has perjured himself. In any case, given what we now know, the Attorney General should resign immediately or be removed.
“This continued stream of information regarding campaign, transition, and administration officials communicating with members of the Russian government and failing to disclose it creates an air of uncertainty about the information and guidance that the President is receiving from his closest advisors,” she continued. “Further, such disclosures point to the possibility that our democracy is being undermined by a foreign power with the consent of the White House.”
Coffman did not go that far, but he said Sessions should make a full disclosure of his contacts and that he could not be the person to head up an investigation.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a grave omission by not disclosing his meetings with the Russian Ambassador last year, including to the Senate during his confirmation hearing,” he said. “I think it would be more than prudent for him to recuse himself from any Russian inquiry, and I would encourage him to fully disclose any and all foreign contacts he had during the course of the campaign. The American people and their representatives in Congress must have the reassurance such inquiry is done in an appropriate and unbiased manner.”
In an interview on NPR, Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said there needs to be more transparency from Sessions about his contacts, but stopped short of saying Sessions should recuse himself.
“I think we need to understand what role if any he will have in the investigation,” Gardner said, adding that he had “full confidence” in the FBI.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet did not call for Sessions’ resignation, but he did ask for an independent investigation.
“At a minimum, Jeff Sessions should recuse himself and appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 election and connections to the Trump campaign,” Bennet said in a statement. “The relevant congressional committees should also include the Attorney General’s communications within the scope of their investigations. The integrity of our democratic institutions is at stake, and the American people deserve the truth.”
Rep. Ed Perlmutter joined the calls for a special prosecutor and asked what additional information the administration is withholding.
“I’m shocked to learn Attorney General Sessions did not disclose his communications with Russian officials during the presidential campaign,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “With AG Sessions now at the center of this investigation, it’s clear he cannot be trusted to conduct a full and fair investigation into the ties between Trump officials and Russia. Furthermore, as a lawyer and a member of the Bar Association, AG Sessions has an obligation to avoid any appearance of impropriety and this standard appears to have been breached. A special prosecutor needs to be appointed immediately in order to lead a neutral investigation and get to the bottom of this.
“This certainly leads us to wonder what the President, the Attorney General and the Administration are hiding. Congressional Republicans have continued to obstruct the process to investigate ties between Russia and President Trump and his officials,” he continued.