President Donald Trump on Thursday denounced a “witch hunt” that added pressure on his secretary of justice following his meetings with a Russian diplomat during last year’s election campaign, which he hid from the Senate.
“Jeff Sessions is a honest man,” Trump said in a statement in which he said that pressure on his team members for actual or possible contacts with Russian officials is no more than a “witch hunt.” Shortly before, the president had expressed “total” confidence in his secretary of justice.
Mr. Jeff Sessions was one of Trump’s first allies in Washington and the promoter of his tough immigration policy.
Sessions is at the center of a spectacular controversy over his encounters with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the midst of last year’s presidential election campaign.
According to US intelligence agencies, Russia and its president Vladimir Putin were responsible for hacking and spreading e-mails from Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party to help Trump win the election.
Those actions had led then-President Barack Obama to expel 35 Russian diplomats from the United States and apply new sanctions to Moscow.
On Thursday, Sessions partially relented to the pressures and announced that he will not participate in any investigation, current or future, made by any Department of Justice body on last year’s election campaign, especially as it relates to Trump team contacts With Russian officials.
However, Sessions stated that it was part of the role of the senators to meet with diplomats, and that in their meeting with the Russian ambassador they spoke of “normal things”, saying he could not to remember if the subject of the election was approached.
The endless controversy over the alleged complicity between Trump’s team and Russian officials during the election campaign persists as a dense black cloud over the White House, and was already the cause of the first casualty in the president’s team.
In early February Trump asked his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to resign, embroiled in a controversial conversation with the same Russian ambassador at the height of the controversy over Russian interference in the election, and when Obama was still president.
However, Trump did not ask for Flynn’s head for talking to the Russian ambassador before assuming his duties, but because he did not go over full information on the content of those conversations to Vice President Mike Pence.
Pressures on Sessions fell on Thursday from all sides.
National Democratic Party chairman Tom Perez and party heads in Congressional chambers – Sen. Chuck Schumer and Senator Nancy Pelosi – requested that Sessions present his resignation.
“The Justice Department must be above any recrimination. For the sake of the country, Attorney General Sessions must resign, “Schumer said, while Pelosi mentioned that the former senator had” lied and should resign. “
In the ranks of the Republican party, however, the voices that arose asked that Sessions be prevented from participating in any investigation on the case, but without mentioning the resignation.
Conservative Senator Marco Rubio had made it clear in the morning that he would “not support Sessions’ fall from grace”, but he did not want the issue to be solved in that way either.
“I’m not interested in participating in a witch hunt, but I’m not interested in participating in a cover-up either,” Rubio said.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said he was not aware of those meetings, but stressed that “the ambassador’s job is to have as many meetings as possible, including with representatives of the country’s executive and legislative branches.”
Sessions’ denial leaves the possibility of the investigation being held at the Department of Justice.
But some Republican lawmakers are already adding, like Democrats, to pressures in favor of appointing an independent or special prosecutor.
Such research could also focus on the unanswered questions about Trump’s business ties in Russia.
On Thursday, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown asked the Treasury Department to open an investigation to determine whether President Trump’s Russian business partners violated US law, especially Washington’s sanctions on Moscow.