Trump Stands By Sessions After Russia Allegations

by Elizabeth Strassner
Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Amid allegations that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with the Russian ambassador twice during the last year, Donald Trump has stood by his Cabinet pick, telling reporters Thursday that he has "total confidence" in Sessions, who "probably" did not lie about the alleged Russian ties during his confirmation hearings.

The Sessions allegations come amid many other Russian controversies for the new president, including a CIA- and FBI-confirmed report that the Russians attempted to intervene in the election on Trump's behalf and the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who reportedly contacted the Russian ambassador about sanctions in the weeks before Trump's inauguration.

After the Washington Post first reported the allegations that Sessions met with the Russian ambassador, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for him to recuse himself from pending DOJ investigations into potential Russian involvement with the Trump campaign and administration. Some top Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Elizabeth Warren, have begun calls for Sessions' resignation over the reports.

It's clear from Trump's comments that at this point, he is not among either group. Trump, who told reporters he was unaware of Sessions' contacts with the Russian ambassador, responded, "I don't think so" when asked whether the attorney general should recuse himself from related investigations.

While allegations of a meeting may call into question Sessions' ability to be impartial in a DOJ investigation of Russian involvement in the election, the allegations could also potentially land Sessions in hot water because they appear to differ from comments he made during his confirmation hearing before the Senate. Sessions was asked about his ability, as attorney general, to oversee investigations into Russian election involvement, and at one point told Sen. Al Franken, "I did not have communications with the Russians," a claim directly disputed by the Post report. The American Civil Liberties Union has called for an investigation into potential perjury by Sessions, saying, "No one is above the law, certainly not those sworn to uphold it."

Trump may still have confidence in Sessions, but that support has been misplaced in the past: Kellyanne Conway told reporters that Trump had "full confidence" in Michael Flynn just hours before White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Trump was "evaluating" the situation. Flynn, of course, ultimately resigned his position. Whether Sessions will meet the same fate — with or without the president's support — remains to be seen.