Dozens of House Democrats are calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s review of contacts between President Trump’s associates and Russian government operatives.
Fifty-five lawmakers, led by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), signed a letter sent to Sessions late Thursday asking him to withdraw based on his ties to Trump’s campaign and key figures who have been alleged to have ties to Russia. The letter comes days after National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned under pressure following reports from The Washington Post and other news organizations that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
“The revelations of the past few days regarding contact between high-level Trump Administration officials and Russian intelligence operatives have been a blow to public confidence in our institutions and to the integrity of our national security,” the letter reads. “These allegations must be met with a thorough, complete and impartial examination. Given your relationships with those who will be under investigation, we urge you to recuse yourself going forward.”
Sessions, a former GOP senator, was among the earliest and most ardent supporters of Trump’s presidential campaign. The letter cites news reports that have linked Sessions to Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager who has done consulting work for Ukrainian politicians sympathetic to Moscow. The Post reported Thursday that Flynn had denied discussing sanctions with Kislyak in a January interview with FBI agents, potentially exposing him to criminal charges.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the letter.
The House Democrats’ letter, signed by the ranking members on the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees, comes after the top Senate Democratic leader, Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, similarly called on Sessions to step aside.
During his confirmation process, Sessions was asked by Democrats whether he had any contact “with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election” — he said he did not — and whether he would recuse himself on various matters involving Trump and his associates.
Sessions answered most of those questions thusly: “I am not aware of a basis to recuse myself from such matters. If a specific matter arose where I believed my impartiality might reasonably be questioned, I would consult with Department ethics officials regarding the most appropriate way to proceed.”
He was also asked by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) whether he would commit to proceeding with investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Said Sessions, “I believe all investigations by the Department of Justice must be initiated and conducted in a fair, professional, and impartial manner, without regard to politics or outside influence. The Department must follow the facts wherever they lead, and make decisions regarding any potential charges based upon the facts and the law, and consistent with established procedures of the Department. That is what I always did as a United States Attorney, and it is what I will insist upon if I am confirmed as Attorney General.”