The Republican party is divided over the best course of action regarding U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In a recent interview with NBC News, Sessions said he is willing to step down if it was “appropriate.” Hours later, House speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Sessions would recuse himself only if a DOJ investigation into his alleged Russian links targeted him.
When one reporter asked Ryan whether Sessions would recuse himself, he replied the embattled AG had already answered that question that morning. Ryan also said that he sees no purpose to Sessions steeping down if he isn’t subject to an investigation.
Earlier on Thursday Sessions said, “Whenever it’s appropriate, I will recuse myself.”
Ryan was also grilled about the report that Sessions misled U.S. Senators during his confirmation hearing about his communications with Russian officials. Ryan said Thursday that he would rather refer to the Senate judiciary panel that interviewed Sessions. He added that it is normal for senators to meet with foreign diplomats.
Sessions is accused of meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice before Trump’s win. It is unclear what the two men discussed but there are concerns he might have talked about campaign issues with the foreign official. Sessions was a prominent Trump surrogate and heavily campaigned on his behalf.
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice confirmed that the two met twice during the 2016 campaign but added that Sessions discussed with Kislyak “in his capacity” as a member of the U.S. Senate, not as a Trump campaign aide.
On Wednesday night, Sessions said he never met with Russian operatives to talk about “issues of the campaign”. He dismissed the allegations brought against him as false.
Jason Chaffetz of the House Oversight Committee Chairman advised the AG to recuse himself in any probes that targeted Trump’s connections to Russia. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy thinks he should “clarify” what types of meetings he had and what he discussed during those meetings.
McCarthy told a MSNBC correspondent that in “these situations” one should recuse himself for the sake of the trust of the American people. McCarthy, however, said it was too early to “urge” Sessions to take that step.
Although he doesn’t want to “prejudge,” he said that the administration should ensure that everyone trusts an investigation into the matter. When the reporter asked whether Sessions’ recusal would help people trust the investigation, McCarthy replied, “Yes.”
An hour later, though, McCarthy told another group of reporters that he was not calling for the AG’s recusal. He added that he is shocked by how some people can “spin things.”
Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer said on Fox News that Sessions should not step down as he was “100 percent straight” during his confirmation hearing. Spicer thinks people are just trying to “play partisan politics” and should be “ashamed of themselves.”
In January, Sen. Al Franken (D – Minn.) asked Sessions if he knew about any connections between Trump’s campaign aides and Russian officials. At the time, the former Alabama senator said that he was “not aware” of any communications, so he couldn’t comment on it. Yet, a recent report shows that he met with the Russian envoy twice, in July and September. It is unclear what the two discussed.
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