WASHINGTON — Democrats called on the attorney general to resign, while some Republicans urged Jeff Sessions to recuse himself as news broke that he had met on two separate occasions with Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, meetings the Alabama Republican did not disclose during his confirmation.
“Now, after lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the attorney general must resign,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
“Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law-enforcement officer of our country and must resign. There must be an independent, bipartisan, outside commission to investigate the Trump political, personal, and financial connections to the Russians.”
Sessions was asked during his confirmation process directly about whether President Donald Trump’s campaign had ties to Russia during his confirmation hearing.
On Twitter, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren warned that Sessions should never have been confirmed at all, but now there was reason to remove him.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also called for Sessions to resign.
“(Wednesday) night when I read the revelations … and his decision to mislead Congress without those contacts, I felt a knot in the pit of my stomach,” Schumer said.
“The information reported (Wednesday) night makes it clear, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Attorney General Sessions cannot possibly lead an investigation … with these revelations, he may very well become the subject of it.”
Republicans including Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Raul Labrador, called on Sessions to recuse himself. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Sessions should “clarify his testimony.”
“I think the Attorney General should further clarify his testimony. And I do think he should recuse himself,” Chaffetz said. “I think I’m going to leave it at that.”
Rep. Sean Duffy, a Wisconsin Republican, said he was disappointed Sessions had not been more forthcoming during his Senate confirmation hearings.
“I don’t know why he wasn’t more clear,” Duffy said. “This is public information. People know these meetings happen. That’s why I wish he would have been more clear.”
Duffy said he believed that, despite the controversy, Sessions should not recuse himself from the wider Russian inquiry.
“I don’t have any information to say, listen, Jeff Sessions won’t be someone that can adequately oversee it,” he said. “That he wasn’t clear on the hearing that gives me some concern but as I look at it, Alisyn, they’re not meeting in a garage or a dark space. These are very open meetings that the senator had with the Russians.”
The Sessions news came after Trump delivered a standard, distraction-free address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. Now, instead of talking about the president’s pivot, Democrats have another opportunity to bask in a news cycle where the focus is chaos at the White House.
Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan said Sessions had misled Congress.
“It’s pretty clear he lied. He said he was a surrogate and he then went on to say he never had any meetings in any capacity with Russian officials, let alone the top Russian spy in the United States,” he said. “What the hell is going on here? Why is everybody lying?”
Sessions strongly denied ever discussing campaign-related issues with anyone from Russia.
“I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” he said in a statement. “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
Sessions’ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said there was nothing “misleading about his answer” to Congress because he “was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee.”
“Last year, the Senator had over 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian, German and Russian ambassadors,” Isgur Flores said in the statement.
A Justice Department official confirmed the meetings, but said Sessions met with the ambassadors “in his capacity as a senator on the Armed Serviced Committee.”
“This is the latest attack against the Trump Administration by partisan Democrats,” a White House official said. “(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.”