Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign from his office, continuing a wave of pressure for the former senator to step down as attorney general or at minimum recuse himself from any investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
Multiple outlets on Wednesday night reported that Sessions spoke twice with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, a revelation that seemed to contradict testimony Sessions gave during his confirmation hearing for attorney general.
Schumer, a New York Democrat, joined other prominent Democrats including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland in calling for Sessions’ resignation.
Numerous prominent Republicans such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah called for Sessions to recuse himself from any Russia-related investigation, which the attorney general himself on Thursday suggested he would do if necessary.
“The information reported last night makes it clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that Attorney General Sessions cannot possibly lead an investigation into Russian interference in our elections or come anywhere near it,” Schumer said at a Thursday press conference. “With these revelations, he may very well become the subject of it.”
“It would be of ‘Alice & Wonderland’ quality if this administration were to sanction him to investigate himself,” he continued. “Recusal should’ve been given, but this goes beyond that. He had weeks – Attorney General Sessions had weeks to correct the record that he made before the Judiciary Committee. But he let the record stand.”
Schumer said that there could be no doubt about the impartiality of the attorney general and that the recent revelations made it clear Sessions “does not meet that test.”
“Because the Department of Justice should be above reproach, for the good of the country Attorney General Sessions should resign,” he said. “But, whatever one’s views are on resignation, the most important thing we must do is ensure the integrity of the investigation.”
The Washington Post, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday night reported that Sessions chatted with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at an event during the Republican National Convention in July and at the senator’s office in September. A respresentative of Sessions said both instances were in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and not as a surrogate for Trump.
Sessions, however, had said during his Senate confirmation hearing, under oath, that he “did not have communications with the Russians.”
Sessions’ allies insist he did not mislead the committee because he did not believe that those conversations, held in his capacity, they said, as a senior Armed Services Committee member were relevant to the question. Opponents say Sessions may have perjured himself by not mentioning those two conversations with Kislyak.
Kislyak was also the person with whom Michael Flynn was found to have communicated with before the election, leading to Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser after Trump said Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence regarding the content of that communication.