Two leading congressional Republicans are calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from federal investigations into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, bucking Donald Trump’s administration.
On Wednesday night, the Washington Post reported that Sessions contacted Russia’s ambassador to the US twice during the presidential election. That contradicted Sessions’s statement during his Senate confirmation hearing, when he told Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), “I did not have communications with the Russians.”
The revelation caused Republicans to break ranks over the proper response from the Trump administration. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and House Oversight Chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) both said that Sessions should recuse himself from federal inquiries into Russian election meddling.
At a CNN town hall forum on Wednesday night, Graham said Sessions should recuse himself if the attorney general spoke with the Russian ambassador: "If there is something there, and it goes up the chain of investigation, it is clear to me that Jeff Sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make this decision about Trump."
Chaffetz followed up Thursday morning with the same demand:
AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) March 2, 2017
Thursday morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, “I think, the trust of the American people, you recuse yourself in these situations. I just think for any investigation going forward, you want to make sure everybody trusts the investigation.” McCarthy clarified in later remarks that he wasn’t “calling” for Sessions to recuse himself, but instead arguing it would be “easier” for an investigation if he did so.
As Vox’s German Lopez wrote Wednesday night, Democrats have gone further in their response — calling on Sessions to not just step aside from the investigation, but to resign the post of attorney general altogether.
“[A]fter lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the attorney general must resign,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country.”
So far, no congressional Republicans are joining that push.
Pelosi and other congressional Democrats have also been demanding since last year that House Speaker Paul Ryan form an independent and bipartisan commission in Congress to investigate the Trump campaign’s Russian ties — a call House Republicans have so far resisted, but one that will only grow louder with the latest revelation about Sessions.
For more on the Trump–Russia scandal, read Vox’s explainer.