US Attorney General Jeff Sessions will step aside from the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Sessions “recused” himself from any Justice Department investigations as he bowed to mounting pressure over newly reported meetings with the Russian ambassador.
“I have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaign for president of the United States,” Sessions said at a press conference.
“This announcement should not be interpreted as confirmation of the existence of any investigation or suggestive of the scope of any such investigation, because we in the Department of Justice resist confirming or denying the very existence of investigations.
“So in the end, I have followed the right procedure just as I promised the committee I would, and just as I believe any good attorney general should do.”
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak two times last year.
Since then, the Attorney General has faced growing demands from Congress to step aside from the investigations.
Sessions previously told the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath that he had not had any “communications with the Russians” during the presidential campaign.
When asked Thursday about his September 8 meeting with the Russian ambassador, Sessions said the two talked about “normal things,” noting terrorism and Ukraine came up in conversation.
“I don’t recall any specific political discussion,” Sessions said. He added that he turned down an invitation for a longer lunch with Kislyak. “Ambassadors are always out there trying to find out things,” he said of diplomats in general.
Trump said on Thursday that he did not think Sessions should recuse himself from investigations and that he had “total” confidence in his attorney general. But Trump also admitted that he only learned of the meetings between Sessions and Kislyak on Wednesday night, from The Washington Post.
Read Sessions’ full statement below:
“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.”