Embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions bowed to pressure Thursday and said he would recuse himself from any federal probe of Russian interference in the presidential election.Insisting again that he had no improper contacts with the Russians, Sessions said he nevertheless will withdraw because of his involvement in the Trump campaign.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke privately with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice last year, despite questions surrounding the Russian hacking scandal. During his confirmation hearings, the Alabama Republican said in sworn testimony, “I have been called a surrogate [for Donald Trump] at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”The ensuing scandal today has been rather fierce, and this afternoon, Sessions agreed to recuse himself from the investigation into the Russia scandal -- a step many lawmakers in both parties demanded.
Sessions said his Justice Department staff "recommended" recusal -- DOJ guidelines are pretty clear on matters such as these -- and insisted this afternoon that he never met with Russian officials "about the Trump campaign." Asked about his discussions, he said he recalls Ukraine coming up.With the possibility of perjury allegations hanging overhead, Sessions added that it was not his "intent" to mislead anyone. He concluded, "I feel I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in."This was, of course, the obvious move under the circumstances, but that doesn't mean Sessions has satisfied the concerns of critics. As of this afternoon, several dozen members of Congress -- including the Democratic leaders in both chambers -- have called on Sessions to resign, insisting it's the only remedy in response to evidence he lied under oath.It's likely they'll consider recusal an unsatisfactory half-measure.What's more, Sessions' latest move doesn't answer a series of key questions:If the recusal only applies to campaign-related questions, is Sessions still overseeing probes related to post-election controversies (such as Michael Flynn's pre-inauguration activities and suspect claims)?Will the investigation now move to a special counsel, or will another hand-picked member of Donald Trump's team oversee matters?Is Sessions recusing because he was part of Trump's campaign team, because his sworn testimony has been called into question, or both?Why was Sessions literally the only member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to talk to the Russian ambassador during the U.S. presidential election?Why did Sessions wait until he was caught up in the middle of a scandal before making this decision?What do these developments this say about White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who insisted this morning that "there's nothing" for Sessions to recuse himself from?