With Sessions Under Fire, WH Blasts 'Latest Attack Against Trump Administration by Partisan Democrats'

Susan Jones | March 2, 2017 | 7:31am EST
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Attorney General-designate Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(CNSNews.com) - Some Democrats are calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions' resignation Thursday, following a report in the Washington Post that says Sessions -- then a U.S. Senator from Alabama who was advising the Trump campaign -- spoke twice last year with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

But at his confirmation hearing, Sessions told Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), "I did not have communications with the Russians."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a statement after the story broke, saying, "Jeff Sessions lied under oath during his confirmation hearing before the Senate." She said he "must resign." Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, also is calling for Sessions' resignation.

But in a statement issued to Fox News Thursday morning, the Trump White House said: "This is the latest attack against the Trump administration by partisan Democrats. General Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony. It's no surprise Sen. Al Franken is pushing this story immediately following President Trump's successful address to the nation."

On Thursday morning, Sessions told waiting reporters, "Well, I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign." Sessions also repeated something he's said earlier: "Whenever it's appropriate, I will recuse myself, there's no doubt about that." If Sessions doesn't resign, Democrats at least want to knock him out of any investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

At Sessions' confirmation hearing on Jan. 10, Sen. Al Franken asked Sessions about news reports that "Trump surrogates" were communicating with "intermediaries for the Russian government" during the campaign.

"And if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?" Franken asked Sessions.

“Senator, I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions responded. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians. And I'm unable to comment on it."

Later in January, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) submitted written questions to Sessions, asking him: "Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Sessions responded, "No." (And that's what Sessions told reporters on Thursday morning.)

Sessions, in response to the Washington Post report, denied meeting with “any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported on Wednesday that officials in the Obama White House, in its final days, "scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government," because they feared the Trump administration would cover up or destroy the information.

These Obama officials reportedly wanted to "leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators," and that intelligence is now being leaked to the newspapers.

According to the New York Times, "American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence."

The Washington Post reported that Sessions had a private meeting with the Russian ambassador in his Senate office in September, but he says they did not discuss the Trump campaign. In July, Sessions reportedly was approached by "a small group of ambassadors," including the Russian ambassador, at the conclusion of an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) told CNN Thursday morning, "it gives me some pause" that Sessions didn't disclose his conversations with the Russian ambassador at his confirmation hearing.

But Duffy added that he would take Sessions at his word that the meetings were in his official capacity as a U.S. Senator. "I highly doubt there was a correlation between those meetings and any campaign activity." Duffy also noted that a meeting in a senator's office is hardly clandestine.

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