On Wednesday night, the Trump administration was faced with another controversy when The Washington Post reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with the Russian ambassador to the United States twice in 2016, according to Justice Department officials. Sessions, significantly, did not disclose his contact when he was under oath during his Senate confirmation hearing. Sessions denied the report in a statement, saying that he "never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign." However, as The Washington Post noted, the report did not accuse Session of having discussed the campaign with the Russian ambassador, but rather, not disclosing the contact when he was sworn under oath.
This is the latest in a series of formal reports and leaks that allege that the Trump campaign and administration may have had contact with Russia. The CIA and FBI have confirmed, for example, that Russia used hacking in an attempt to bolster Trump's candidacy; recently, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign in the face of accusations that he spoke with Russia about President Obama's election-related sanctions before Trump even took office.
Wednesday's report about Sessions are all the more disturbing because he would theoretically lead any Department of Justice investigation into other alleged incidents of Russian interference with the election. Many Democrats and some Republicans, including House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, have called for Sessions to recuse himself.
AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) March 2, 2017
We need a special prosecutor totally independent of the AG. We need a real, bipartisan, transparent Congressional investigation into Russia.— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 2, 2017
However, other Republicans are unmoved. According to The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, most congressional Republicans "were resistant to the idea of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the contacts between Russia and Trump campaign officials and surrogates." And while House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy initially said of Sessions Thursday morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, "You recuse yourself in these situations," not long after hetold Fox & Friends that "I'm not calling on him to recuse himself ... it's amazing how people spin things so quickly."
This indifference on the part of some top GOP leaders to the harrowing implications of allegations of Russian ties must end immediately. I very much believe that it is not an exaggeration to say that the American people's faith in their government is at stake.
There's plenty of evidence that Trump's victory was seen by the Kremlin as a "geopolitical win" as The Washington Post's Adam Entous and Greg Miller described it. The Daily Beast even reported that Russian officials toasted with champagne to celebrate the win. We also know that top U.S. intelligence agencies have analyzed and confirmed Russia attempted to interfere with the election, partially motivated by the goal to help Trump win.
If there are accounts from our own intelligence agencies that another country is trying to interfere with our electoral system, the American people deserve a further investigation. I firmly this isn't a partisan issue — and yet, because Republicans have taken an insufficient stand on this issue, it is becoming one.
Ultimately, Republicans must join their Democratic colleagues in demanding a full, thorough, bipartisan investigation into all allegations of Trump campaign and administration contacts with Russia. Leaving this gravely serious matter un-investigated would be hugely detrimental to the integrity of American democracy.