(CNSNews.com) – The controversy surrounding Jeff Sessions' contact with the Russian ambassador is a “nothing-burger,” Sen. Ted Cruz said on Thursday.
“What we are seeing is a lot of political theater,” Cruz told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“Could Jeff have been more clear in what he said? Yes. I think that was unfortunate. Context matters a lot. Jeff was being asked about the Trump campaign communicating with the Russians. I think he understood that he was answering in that capacity and that is perfectly understandable.”
Cruz also said meeting with foreign ambassadors is part of a senator’s job.
“And so I think everyone is getting worked up because it's a chance to beat up the attorney general and a chance to beat up the president.”
Cruz served with Sessions on the Armed Services Committee, and Cruz says he personally met with six different ambassadors in January and February – but not the Russian ambassador.
“You know, I'm willing to bet Al Franken has met with a great number of ambassadors,” even while he was supporting Hillary Clinton. “But when he's doing his job as senator, he's not a representative of the campaign. I think the same was exactly true for Jeff Sessions when he was doing his job as a senator.”
Cruz said typically, ambassadors call senators to request meetings.
“Jeff Sessions is a man of integrity, hes a man of candor. I don't know any senator who served with Jeff Sessions, Democrat or Republican, who would say that Jeff has been anything less than totally honest. Now, they don't like that he's a conservative… but he is very open and honest about his views.
“By the way, Jeff has been a serious critic of Russia. He's not been shy calling out Putin. So, the notion that there was something somehow wrong with a senior senator on the Armed Services Committee meeting with a foreign ambassador, I think that's a nothing-burger.
“And the testimony -- Jeff should have been more clear. I think he said he wished he was more clear. But, at the end of the day, I don't think there's any there there.”
If the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election extends to Sessions, “recusal would be appropriate,” Cruz said.
“I don't have any indication that there would be an investigation because I don't think there's any credible allegation that Jeff did anything wrong in meeting with the Russian ambassador. He was -- he didn't speak as clearly as he should.
“Although, I will note, Jeff had an all-day marathon hearing where he was getting hammered and Jeff was answering as candidly and directly as possible. And I think, in context, he was answering, no, as part of the Trump campaign he wasn't meeting with the Russians.
And my understanding, he wasn't thinking about his role as a senator. But I don't see anything for there to be an investigation, but Of course if there was into him directly, any official would recuse themselves from an investigation into their own conduct.”