President Trump jumped on Twitter last night to defend embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions against charges he misled Congress about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, and accused Democrats of waging a “witch hunt” against his administration
“Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional,” the president tweeted.
“This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win. The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election, and now they have lost their grip on reality. The real story is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total ‘witch hunt!’ ”
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Sessions meanwhile seemed to rest his fate on his decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential campaign, hoping it will be enough to ride out a political storm that threatened to sink his three-week tenure at the Justice Department.
“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Sessions said at a hastily called press conference yesterday. “And the idea that I was part of a ‘continuing exchange of information’ during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government is totally false.”
Sessions said he and senior Justice Department officials reviewed ethics rules shortly after being sworn in and made a final determination yesterday.
“They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation,” Sessions said. “I believe those recommendations are right and just.”
His decision came amid pressure from both Republicans and Democrats after news of Sessions’ two meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak first broke Wednesday night.
There were already signs the former Alabama U.S. senator would be able to survive the dust-up. Even before the press conference, Trump said he had “total” confidence in Sessions and didn’t think he needed to step down from the probe. Other Republicans praised the AG’s recusal. South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had called for Sessions to remove himself from the probe earlier in the day, hailed it as a “great decision” and tweeted he has “full confidence” in the AG.
Democrats, on the other hand, wanted Sessions to resign and demanded the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
But Democrats have little power in Congress, and some appeared to overplay their hand. Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill tried to suggest it would be highly unusual for a member of the Armed Services Committee — which Sessions served on — to meet with a Russian ambassador.
Sessions has insisted he met with Kislyak in his duties as a senator, not as a Trump campaign chairman.
But it turned out McCaskill also had contact with the Russian ambassador herself — twice.
At one point she even suggested that keeping contact with ambassadors was indeed part of her job description. “Today calls with British, Russian, and German Ambassadors re: Iran deal. #doingmyhomework,” she tweeted in 2015.
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