March 2, 2017

Sessions should resign, says NM Senator

Gage Skidmore

Jeff Sessions Photo Credit: Flickr/cc

One U.S. Senator from New Mexico says U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions should resign after reports that he misled Congress over his  contact with the Russian ambassador last year during the presidential campaign.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, said in a statement Thursday that a special counsel should investigate the Trump administration and its alleged ties to the Russian government.

“Attorney General Sessions’ statements to Congress, under oath, were at best misleading, and that is concerning in and of itself,” Udall said. “In the context of the Trump administration’s lack of full disclosure about its connections to Russia, Attorney General Sessions has raised so many doubts about his integrity and his ability to lead the Department of Justice that I believe the nation would be better off if he resigned.”

Sen. Martin Heinrich, another Democrat, did not immediately call for Sessions’ resignation.

“Attorney General Sessions needs to come clean,” Heinrich said in a statement to NM Political Report. “If he committed perjury or even misled or withheld information from Congress and the American people, then he should resign.”

He also called for further investigation into the connections between Trump and Russia.

Both Udall and Heinrich voted against Sessions’ confirmation as Attorney General.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, another Democrat, also called on Sessions to resign and asked for an independent investigator.

“Attorney General Sessions has eroded the public’s trust, and he should resign,” Lujan Grisham said. “We need an independent prosecutor to investigate every aspect of Russian interference in the election, and alleged ties to the President, his advisors and associates.”

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat who also chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also said Sessions should resign.

“It is simply unacceptable that Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied under oath about his communications with Russian officials,” Luján said. “His role as our nation’s top law enforcement official has been compromised and he should do the right thing and resign. Failing that, President Trump should fire him immediately, just as he fired his National Security Advisor when it was found he lied to the Vice President about his contact with the Russians.”

If Rep. Steve Pearce weighs in, NM Political Report will update this post.

Reports: Sessions met with Russia

News broke Wednesday night that Sessions spoke with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in contrast to previous statements by Sessions that he had no contact with Russia. Sessions made those statements under oath during his confirmation hearing.

Sessions was the chairman of the Trump campaign’s national security advisory committee during his communications with Kislak on two occasions last July and September.

According to CNN, Kislyak “is considered by US intelligence to be one of Russia’s top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington, according to current and former senior US government officials.” The story also reports that “Russian officials dispute this characterization.”

“I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” Sessions said in a statement after the news broke. “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

The Justice Department confirmed to media outlets yesterday that he did indeed meet with Kislyak last year, though Sessions denied that the meetings were on behalf of the Trump campaign and denied that he misled Congress in January. In a statement, the Justice Department told media outlets that Session met the Russian ambassador “in his capacity as a senator on the Armed Services Committee.”

Udall joins several Democratic U.S. Senators who called for Sessions’ resignation. Several Republican Senators have said Sessions should recuse himself from any investigation into Russian interference with the elections, but have not called for his resignation.

Update: Sessions said Thursday he would recuse himself from the investigation.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, a Republican from Florida, said according to Bloomberg, “If he cannot commit to ensuring this process is completed with full transparency and integrity, he should resign.”

A previous resignation

If Sessions were to resign—and it appears that, for now, the White House is standing behind him—it would be the second high-profile Trump administration resignation in less than two months. And both would be over communications with a Russian official.

Michael Flynn resigned last month as National Security Advisor after he told Mike Pence, then the vice president-elect, that he never discussed sanctions against Russia with Kislyak. This is the same Russian official Sessions met.

Pence defended Flynn based on his statements, but later leaks showed that Flynn did discuss the sanctions.

Udall and Heinrich also used the opportunity to advocate for the release of President Donald Trump’s tax returns. Trump broke years of precedence by not releasing his tax returns.

“After these latest revelations about Attorney General Sessions’ contacts with Russian Ambassador Kislyak, it is more evident than ever that we must appoint a special counsel to conduct a complete and independent investigation of the Trump administration’s ties to the Russian government and a bipartisan commission to examine Russia’s involvement in the presidential election,” Udall said.

Heinrich said an “independent commission or special prosecutor” should look into the ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

“That should also include a subpoena for the President’s taxes so that we can follow the money and find real answers to what they are hiding,” he said.

Update: Added a statement by Rep. Ben Ray Luján.