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LIVE COVERAGE: Jeff Sessions under fire

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsAppeals court rules against Trump effort to hit 'sanctuary cities' Justice Dept inspector asks US attorney to consider criminal charges for McCabe: reports Poll: Almost two-thirds of Texas voters support legal recreational marijuana MORE is coming under fire for allegations that he lied under oath about meetings he held with Russia's ambassador to the United States.

A number of Republicans say Sessions should recuse himself from any investigation into President Trump's ties to Russia, while Democrats are calling for him to resign.

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The Hill will be providing updates throughout the day on the Sessions news here.

Sessions appears on Fox News 

Updated 10:10 p.m. 

Sessions further defended himself in an interview with Fox News' Tucker Carlson.

“I don’t recall any discussion of the campaign in any significant way,” he said of his conversation with Kislyak. “It was in no way some sort of coordinating of an effort or doing anything improper, and I don’t believe anybody that was in that meeting would seen or believed I said one thing that was improper or unwise.”

Sessions said he did remember them disagreeing over the situation in Ukraine and said he had met with the Ukrainian ambassador the day before. 

 “It was a sad thing to be attacked like that, but I think we explained it and we intend to move forward,” he said.

Trump calls Sessions uproar a "witch hunt"

Updated 8:40 p.m. 

Trump defended Sessions in a statement on social media, saying that he "did not say anything wrong."

 

Top House intel dem: Sessions should step down

Updated 6:44 p.m.

House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffNew York seeks authority to prosecute despite presidential pardons Schiff pushes bill to review any Trump pardons in Russia probe Former GOP donor says he's using tax-cut money to fight Trump admin policies, elect Dems MORE (D-Calif.) said he’s “come to the reluctant conclusion that the Attorney General should step down. As a Senator, Mr. Sessions demanded complete and truthful tesitmony by those appearing before him for confirmation, and I do not believe he met his own rigorous standard.”

 

 

Judiciary senator: Sessions ‘must appear’ before committee again

Updated 6:38 p.m.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyCongress should build on the momentum from spending bill Overnight Tech: Zuckerberg grilled by lawmakers over data scandal | What we learned from marathon hearing | Facebook hit with class action lawsuit | Twitter endorses political ad disclosure bill | Uber buys bike share Overnight Cybersecurity: Zuckerberg faces grilling in marathon hearing | What we learned from Facebook chief | Dems press Ryan to help get Russia hacking records | Top Trump security adviser resigning MORE (D-Vt.), the senior-most member of the Judiciary Committee, said Sessions’s “partial recusal does not go far enough.”

“He must appear in public before the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain why he twice gave misleading testimony under oath and why he failed to disclose such false testimony until prompted by news reports. Such conduct is unacceptable from our nation’s top law enforcement official. 

“Most importantly, Attorney General Sessions cannot be a part of any investigations into the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia, whether before or after the election.”

Schumer: Sessions part of ‘troubling pattern’ with Trump administration

Updated 5:19 p.m.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHouse Republicans push Mulvaney, Trump to rescind Gateway funds Congress should build on the momentum from spending bill Corker won’t campaign against Democrat running for Tennessee Senate seat MORE (D-N.Y.) said Sessions “is right to recuse himself, but the fact is he should have done so the moment he was sworn in.”

He tied the controversy swirling around Sessions to the resignation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, saying it “continues a troubling pattern with this administration. They only do the right thing when they are caught doing the wrong thing."

"The administration didn't fire General Flynn until he was caught lying and the Attorney General didn't recuse himself until he was caught misleading Congress.

“Given these facts, there is no choice but for [Acting Attorney General [Dana] Boente to appoint a special prosecutor.”

But Schumer noted that the acting AG is “still in the President’s chain of command and could be fired at will by the President.”

“The DOJ regulations clearly require the appointment of a special prosecutor and the administration shouldn't ignore clear regulations a second time.”

 

Pelosi bashes Sessions’ ‘sorry attempt to explain away his perjury’

Updated 5:08 p.m.

“Attorney General Sessions’ narrow recusal and his sorry attempt to explain away his perjury are totally inadequate,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) charged Thursday evening.

“He is clearly trying to maintain his ability to control the larger investigation into the sprawling personal, political and financial grip Russia has on the Trump Administration.

“Attorney General Sessions’ lies to the Senate and to the American people make him unfit to serve as the chief law enforcement officer of our country. He must resign immediately.”

 

Senate Judiciary chairman: ‘Talk of resignation is nonsense’

Updated 4:48 p.m.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley: McConnell doesn't control my committee Senate panel punts Mueller protection bill to next week GOP senator: Congress needs ‘to move on’ from Russia probe MORE weighed in shortly after Sessions’s press conference ended.

“First and foremost, any talk of resignation is nonsense,” he said in a statement.

Grassley said that he met with Sessions earlier Thursday afternoon, and “suggested, as I did with Attorney General Lynch after she met with President Clinton on her airplane, that his recusal may be the best course of action. 

“He indicated that he had been consulting with the professionals at the department, and that he agreed.

“There’s little doubt that alleged conflicts, no matter how flimsy and regardless of whether or not they are based in fact, will be used against him to discredit him and any potential investigation into alleged conversations between the campaign and the Russian government.

“So, his actions today were the right thing to do,” Grassley continued.

He added that he appreciates “that he will be sending a letter to the committee, as I asked him to do, to clear up any confusion regarding his testimony so we can put this issue to bed once and for all.”

 

Sessions statement on recusal

Updated 4:44 p.m.

The following is Sessions’s full statement on recusal:

“During the course of the confirmation proceedings on my nomination to be Attorney General, I advised the Senate Judiciary Committee that ‘[i]f 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.’

“During the course of the last several weeks, I have met with the relevant senior career Department officials to discuss whether I should recuse myself from any matters arising from the campaigns for President of the United States.

“Having concluded those meetings today, I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.

“I have taken no actions regarding any such matters, to the extent they exist.

“This announcement should not be interpreted as confirmation of the existence of any investigation or suggestive of the scope of any such investigation.

“Consistent with the succession order for the Department of Justice, Acting Deputy Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Dane Boente shall act as and perform the functions of the Attorney General with respect to any matters from which I have recused myself to the extent they exist.”

 

Judiciary Committee Dem: Sessions has more questions to answer

Updated 4:40 p.m.

Speaking to MSNBC shortly after Sessions’s press conference wrapped up, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the attorney general “has to be brought back” before the Judiciary Committee, which he is a member of, to answer further questions.

If those answers aren’t sufficient, he added, Sessions should resign.  

 

Graham: Sessions recusal a 'great decision' 

Updated 4:32 p.m.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination Senate panel moving ahead with Mueller bill despite McConnell opposition Overnight Defense: Lawmakers worry over Syria strategy | Trump's base critical of strikes | Flake undecided on Pompeo | Coast Guard plans to keep allowing transgender members | GOP chair wants to cut B from Pentagon agencies MORE (R-S.C.) quickly weighed in on Sessions's announcement, calling it a "great decision." 

"It's the best decision for the country and DOJ," he said in a tweet. "I have full confidence in Jeff Sessions serving as attorney general."

Graham told reporters earlier  Thursday that Sessions should step back from any criminal prosecution that stemmed out of an investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow. 

Sessions: ‘I have recused myself’

Updated 4:25 p.m.

Speaking to the press on Thursday afternoon, Sessions said, "My staff recommended recusal. Therefore I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign."

 

 

Sessions to hold 4 p.m. press conference

Updated 3:21 p.m. 

Sessions will address the press at 4 p.m. ET, which will be streamed live

 

 

Cruz: Democrats creating 'political circus' around Sessions

Updated 3:20 p.m.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules Senate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA DOJ denies reports judicial nominee once called illegal immigrants 'maggots' MORE (R-Texas) said Democrats are focusing their ire on Sessions because they oppose Trump.

"What we're seeing right now is political circus. It is Democrats who oppose President Trump, who oppose Attorney General Jeff Sessions because he's a conservative and a Republican … and who are now using this as an excuse to impugn his character." 

 

Trump: 'Total' confidence in Sessions

Updated 2:31 p.m.

President Trump said he has “total” confidence in Sessions on Thursday afternoon, while touring the USS Gerald R. Ford in Newport News, Va.

Trump told reporters he “wasn’t aware” of Sessions’ conversations with Sergey Kislyak, but believes he “probably did” speak truthfully to the Senate under oath. 
 
When asked if Sessions should recuse himself from the U.S. government’s Russia investigation, Trump said: “I don't think so."

 

House Intelligence Republican joins calls for recusal

Updated 2:11 p.m.

“Attorney General Sessions must recuse himself from any investigation into Russia activities & clarify his testimony before the Senate,” Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

 

 

House Freedom Caucus co-founder: Sessions may become witness

Updated 2:07 p.m.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), a co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Sessions should recuse himself because he will now have to answer questions about his contacts with Russia as a witness.

“He’s going to have to answer questions as a witness, so iftehre’s going to be investigations about Russia that he may actually become a witness and I don’t think he should be leading the investigation,” he told reporters.

 

 

Former House Ethics chairman: Sessions should recuse himself

Updated 2:02 p.m.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) – the former chairman of the House Ethics Committee – said Sessions “shouldn’t have given the contradictory statements” and as such, should recuse himself from any probe.

But, he added, Sessions and every other member has a right to meet with ambassadors.

 

Two more reps. from Clinton-won districts call for recusal

Updated 1:53 p.m.

Reps. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) – who are both up for reelection in districts Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJustice to provide access to Comey memos to GOP lawmakers Justice Dept inspector asks US attorney to consider criminal charges for McCabe: reports 'Homeland' to drop Trump allegories in next season MORE won in November, have weighed in on Sessions. 

"The integrity of any Department of Justice investigation regarding Russian activities must be unassailable and must have the confidence of the American people," said Costello, whose district is tagged “Likely Republican” by the Cook Political Report.

"Given the circumstances as I understand them to be, Attorney General Sessions should recuse himself from such an investigation, and also clarify his testimony to the Senate before he was confirmed."

Clinton won his district by less than 1 point in November. 

 Meehan, who is in a “Likely Republican” district that went for Clinton by 2.4 points, echoed Costello in a similar statement.

"The American people must be able to have confidence in the integrity of any inquiry into Russian activities and Attorney General Sessions' involvement would undermine this confidence," he said.

"The Attorney General's testimony during his confirmation has clearly been called into question by news reports indicating he met with the Russian Ambassador prior to the election. Attorney General Sessions should recuse himself and clarify the testimony he gave the Senate prior to his confirmation."

 

More GOP representatives call for recusal

Updated 1:16 p.m.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) joined a handful of other Republicans in calling on Sessions to recuse himself from any probe.

“‎Regardless of whether the Attorney General misspoke or misled at his Senate confirmation hearing, the Justice Department should include these alleged meetings in their investigation and Mr. Sessions should recuse himself from Justice Department activities related to the investigation.”

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) also joined in, noting that former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderJames Comey and Andrew McCabe: You read, you decide Eric Holder headed to New Hampshire for high-profile event Holder: 'Our democracy is under attack' MORE recused himself from a probe in 2013 under President Obama.

Curbelo and Comstock are Democratic targets up for reelection in 2018. They both represent districts that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won in November; Clinton beat Trump by 16.2 points in Curbelo’s Florida district and outperformed the president by 9.9 points in Comstock’s Virginia territory. 

Second GOP senator calls for Sessions recusal

Updated 12:59 p.m.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Trump NASA pick advances after drama | White House office to investigate Pruitt's soundproof booth | 170 lawmakers call for Pruitt to resign Trump's NASA nominee advances after floor drama Family, friends mourn death of Barbara Bush MORE (R-Maine) became the second Senate Republican Thursday to call for Sessions to recuse himself, saying he “should recuse himself to ensure public confidence in the Justice Department’s investigation.”

“He should also clarify his statements to the Judiciary Committee,” she added.

The other is Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTax rules will be subject to more OMB review under new memo Ending sex trafficking tomorrow requires preventing child abuse today Doctors bristle at push for opioid prescription limits MORE, (R-Ohio) who said in a statement: “Jeff Sessions is a former colleague and a friend, but I think it would be best for him and for the country to recuse himself from the D.O.J. Russia probe.”

Booker joins Dem calls for resignation

Updated 12:56 p.m.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is joining the growing chorus of Democrats demanding Sessions resign, saying “it’s clear that Mr. Sessions withheld critical information from the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

“Mr. Sessions, a former prosecutor, someone who stressed again and again the importance of full disclosure in the confirmation process when he served in the Senate, and our nation’s top law enforcement officer, should know better than anyone the gravity of withholding relevant information while under oath.”

"Mr. Sessions has irrevocably eroded confidence in his ability to continue serving as an impartial enforcer of America’s laws. For the good of the country, Jeff Sessions should resign as Attorney General,” he added.

Booker first weighed in on the breaking news Wednesday night on Twitter, calling for a special prosecutor.

He now joins Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann Warren'Fearless Girl' statue to be moved away from Wall Street bull Sanders, Warren, O’Rourke inspire patriotic small donor waves Overnight Health Care: GOP pushes stiff work requirements for food stamps | Johnny Isakson opens up about family's tragic loss to opioids | Republicans refuse to back vulnerable Dem's opioids bill | Dems offer new public option plan MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders, Warren, O’Rourke inspire patriotic small donor waves Bill Press reflects on Clinton, Sanders and a life in politics Overnight Health Care: GOP pushes stiff work requirements for food stamps | Johnny Isakson opens up about family's tragic loss to opioids | Republicans refuse to back vulnerable Dem's opioids bill | Dems offer new public option plan MORE (I-Vt.) in calling for Sessions’ resignation.

 

Freshman Republican: Sessions must clarify testimony

Updated 12:41 p.m.

Freshman Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) released a statement calling on Sessions to clarify his testimony and recuse himself from any probe.

"Jeff Sessions needs to immediately clarify his Senate testimony and recuse himself from any investigation into Russian ties. 

“If he cannot commit to ensuring this process is completed with full transparency and integrity, he should resign. The American people are demanding integrity, they are demanding answers and they deserve an unbiased investigation into the facts."

Protesters rally outside Justice Department for Sessions resignation

Update 12:40 p.m. 

A group of protesters met in front of the Department of Justice and called for Sessions to resign. 

There were calls to "lock him up," a play on the 2016 chants from Trump supporters and some campaign surrogates to prosecute Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. 

House Judiciary Dems demand criminal investigation

Updated 12:31 p.m.            

The 17 Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing Phillips calling for “an immediate criminal investigation” into Sessions’s statements to Congress, saying they "could potentially implicate a number of criminal laws including Lying to Congress and Perjury.”

“Efforts by Attorney General Sessions to assert that his testimony was not false or even misleading because he met with the Russian Ambassador in his capacity as a Senator, rather than a campaign representative, appear to be disingenuous at best as the questions put to him did not in any way ask if the meeting was campaign related,” the letter reads.

Colorado Republican: Sessions made ‘grave omission’

Updated 12:20 p.m.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), who is up for reelection in 2018, tweeted that Sessions “made a grave omission by not disclosing his meetings with the Russian Ambassador last year” and said it “would be more than prudent for him to fully recuse himself from any Russian inquiry." 

 

Graham: Sessions should not oversee any Russia probe

Updated 12:18 p.m.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Thursday that Sessions should step back from any criminal prosecution that stems from probes into contacts between Trump officials and Moscow. 

"If there's credibility to the allegations of inappropriate contacts between the [Russian] government and the campaign, in my view, for the good of the integrity of the system, somebody should pursue that — not Jeff Sessions," Graham told reporters.  

Graham argued that Sessions's comments to the committee were "all about campaign contacts" but said he does believe the attorney general should publicly clarify his conversations with the Russian ambassador. 

"If he met the Russian ambassador as a senator, then he needs to tell us what they talked about," he said. 

But when it comes to the growing number of Democrats calling on Sessions to resign, Graham said they are "crazy." 

"They've just absolutely lost their minds when it comes to all things Trump," he said. 

 

Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP senators raise concerns about babies on Senate floor Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination FCC moves forward with rule aimed at protecting US communications networks MORE: 'No Scandal'

Updated 12:15 p.m.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton (Ark.) defended Sessions, saying, "There's no scandal."  

"Anyone who knows Jeff Sessions as I do can vouch for his integrity and honesty," Cotton said in a statement. "There’s no scandal in a senator meeting an ambassador, which happens all the time. I’m disappointed the Democrats are distorting the facts to impugn Attorney General Sessions’s character."

Cotton sits on both the Senate's Intelligence Committee and the Armed Services Committee.

Top House Foreign Affairs Dem calls for resignation

Updated 12:10 p.m. 

Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House's Foreign Affairs Committee, joined growing Democratic calls for Sessions's resignation and called for a special prosecutor in a statement.

“After reviewing what Mr. Sessions said to the Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing, I feel he was not truthful about his contact with Russian officials," Engel said in a statement. "Therefore, he should step down as Attorney General."

Engel went further, calling for a special prosecutor and independent commission to investigate Russian election interference even if Sessions does resign. 

Sanders: Sessions should resign

Updated 11:54

Add Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to the growing list calling for Sessions to resign.

In a statement, Sanders says the country needs "a Justice Department that will give us the facts about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and their ties to the Trump campaign, not one led by someone who deliberately misled Congress about his own communications with the Russian government."

"Attorney General Sessions should resign and a special prosecutor should be appointed to give the American people credible answers about Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election."

Ryan blames Dems on Sessions

Updated 11:40 a.m. 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFreedomWorks backs Jim Jordan for House Speaker House, Senate GOP compete for cash Some doubt McCarthy or Scalise will ever lead House GOP MORE (R-Wis.) is blaming Democrats for ginning up stories about Sessions.

Ryan said Democrats were lighting their “hair on fire” over Sessions.

“There’s nothing new that we have seen here,” Ryan said at his press conference on Thursday, where the first two questions were about the embattled attorney general.

Ryan repeatedly noted that there has been no evidence of Americans working with Russia to influence the U.S. presidential election.

GOP Intel chairman defends Sessions

Updated 11:34

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenators express concerns over Haspel's 'destruction of evidence' Overnight Cybersecurity: US, UK blame Russia for global cyberattacks | Top cyber official leaving White House | Zuckerberg to meet EU digital chief Senators, state officials to meet on election cybersecurity bill MORE (R-N.C.) defended Sessions on Thursday amid reports that he spoke with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign. 

"I trust Jeff Sessions," Burr told reporters when asked about calls for the former GOP Alabama senator to recuse himself from an investigation into potential contacts between Trump officials and Moscow. 

Asked if he believed Sessions should recuse himself, Burr said, "That's up to Jeff Sessions." 

White House dismisses calls for Sessions to recuse

Updated 11:27 a.m.
 
The White House is dismissing calls for Sessions to recuse himself from an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“There’s nothing to recuse himself,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in an interview with Fox News that aired late Thursday morning.

“He was 100 percent straight with the committee, and I think that people [who] are choosing to play partisan politics with this should be ashamed of themselves," he added. 

Sessions is facing mounting pressure from top Republicans to remove himself from the Russia probe following reports that he spoke with Moscow’s U.S. envoy twice last year, a disclosure that appeared to contradict sworn testimony during his confirmation hearing.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) called the former Alabama senator a “friend” but said “it would be best for him and for the country to recuse himself from the DOJ Russia probe.”

That sentiment was echoed by House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzIngraham’s ratings spike a wake-up for advertisers Boehner to campaign for House GOP candidates Americans want to protect public lands, Congress should listen MORE (R-Utah).

 

— Jordan Fabian contributed.