Washington – Connecticut Democratic lawmakers joined a growing chorus of their colleagues Thursday in calling for the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, citing his testimony under oath denying he had contacts with Russian officials during the presidential campaign.
Sessions said Thursday he would recuse himself from any Justice Department investigation of any ties Russia may have had to the Trump campaign.
“I feel I should not be investigating a campaign I had a role in,” Sessions said.
Session, an early supporter of Donald Trump, was a member of the Trump campaign’s National Security Advisory Council.
The recusal did not satisfy some Democratic lawmakers.
“Attorney General Sessions must resign,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District. “As more revelations regarding the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russians continue to come to light, the president and his administration have a responsibility to call for a special investigation and give the American people the full story.”
DeLauro said Sessions “has shown that he is both not impartial on the matter and that he is willing to lie under oath in order to cover up his actions.”
“Recusing himself from the investigation into Russia’s meddling in our election is not enough, and he must step down immediately,” DeLauro said.
Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted, “At this point, the only way to get a fair investigation of Trump/Russia ties is with a new AG. Sessions should resign.”
Franken asked, “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government, what would you do?”
“Senator Franken, I am not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions replied. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two and I have not had communications with Russians and I am unable to comment on that.”
But according to Justice Department officials, Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice in 2016, including a private meeting in September in his office.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the revelation “begs serious questions about his fitness to lead the Department of Justice.”
“Unless Attorney General Sessions can provide a credible explanation, his resignation will be necessary,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who opposed Sessions’ confirmation.
At Thursday’s press conference, Sessions said the September meeting with Kislyak was arranged by his staff at the ambassador’s suggestion. He said terrorism and Ukraine were the subject of a conversation that at one point “got a little bit testy,” but he “did not recall” whether there was mention of “any specific political issue.”
Sessions also said that, in retrospect, he should have told Franken, “I did meet a Russian official a couple of times.”
The revelations about Sessions also increased calls on Capitol Hill for a special prosecutor to investigate any ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
“I have called repeatedly for such an independent prosecutor, and now there can be no question that possible perjury and other criminal violations demand it,” Blumenthal said. “After omitting key details and providing false information in his written responses to me and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we are left wondering what else is missing or misleading in his testimony.”
The White House defended Sessions.
“(Attorney) General Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony,” a White House official said.
Blumenthal said he also is a member of the Armed Services Committee “and did not meet with the Russian ambassador at all last year.”
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said that, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, he had never met with Russian officials.
He said Sessions’ meeting with the Russian ambassador as part of the senator’s job on the Armed Services Committee “does not pass the smell test.”
“Our job is to discuss military policy, not foreign policy,” Courtney said.
Unlike other Democrats, Courtney said he was holding back on calling for Session’s resignation, but said a “forthright and clear” recusal is necessary.
“But that could change as the facts unfold, his being the nation’s top law enforcement officer,” Courtney said
Late Wednesday, in a rare bipartisan accord, the House Intelligence Committee signed off on a plan to investigate Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. election, which includes examining contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia and determining who leaked the details of those contacts. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, is a member of that committee.
Many Democrats say an independent investigation is needed. Courtney said he’d like a Watergate-type congressional investigation. Himes said he wants one modeled after the 9-11 commission that was made up entirely of members independent of Congress and the White House.
But Himes said the agreement reached by the House Intelligence Committee “is the second-best solution.”
Spending all day Thursday behind closed door at an FBI briefing, Himes said Director James Comey left many questions unanswered about the investigation into Russia’s possible meddling in the U.S. election.
“We are not getting a lot of information from Comey at this point,” Himes said.
As far as Sessions, Himes said, “At one level, it doesn’t matter what (Sessions and Kislyak) discussed because it appears Sessions was not fully honest with the Senate.”
Still, Himes said he’s not ready yet to call for Session’s resignation. “I just haven’t done enough work yet,” he said.
Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, last month after intelligence sources leaked that Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with Kislyak before Trump’s swearing-in on Jan. 20, and then misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.
Himes said that incident has similarities to Sessions’ handling of his meeting with a top Russian official.
“We’ve sort of seen this movie before,” he said.
This story was updated at 5:30 p.m.