NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D Clarke has called on United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign after he said on Thursday that he will recuse himself from investigations related to the 2016 US presidential campaign, which would include any Russian interference in the US electoral process.
“When Jeff Sessions was nominated Attorney General of the United States, I expressed my serious concerns about his awful record on civil rights. As a political appointee to the Department of Justice who was sworn to uphold our laws, he referred to some of the nation’s leading civil rights organisations as ‘un-American,’ cited approval for the Ku Klux Klan, and demeaned his African American colleagues,” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
“Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee found these comments alarming and refused to confirm his nomination as a federal judge, and the nomination was ultimately withdrawn. That record should have been disqualifying, as the position of chief law enforcement officer requires compassion and a genuine commitment to equality under the law.
“Now we have learned that, contrary to testimony Jeff Sessions provided under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was in contact with agents of the Russian government during the 2016 Presidential Election, even as he was actively supporting Donald Trump’s campaign,” Clarke said.
“As more details have become available, the influence of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government on the election has become undeniable.
“Jeff Sessions cannot credibly lead the Department of Justice. Therefore, he must resign from his current position. If he refuses, I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to consider the possibility of impeachment and removal from office.”
In addressing a hastily called news conference at the US Justice Department, Sessions on Thursday said that he was following the recommendation of department ethics officials after an evaluation of the rules and cases in which he might have a conflict.
“They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation,” he said, adding that he agreed with their assessment and would thus recuse himself from any existing or future investigation involving President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The announcement comes a day after The Washington Post revealed that Sessions twice met with Russian Ambassador to Washington Sergey Kishlak during the campaign and did not disclose that to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his US Senate confirmation hearing in January.
The responsibility to oversee the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Russia investigation will now be handled by Sessions’s deputy attorney general, the department’s second-highest-ranking official, according to the Post.
The acting deputy attorney general is Dana Boente, a long time US federal prosecutor and former US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who stepped in when Trump fired Attorney General Sally Yates in January.
The revelations about Sessions’s meetings with Kislyak brought new scrutiny to the attorney general’s confirmation hearing in January, when he was asked by Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign had communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.
At that time, Sessions replied: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
On Thursday, Sessions defended those remarks as “honest and correct as I understood it at the time,” though he also said he would “write the Judiciary Committee soon to explain this testimony for the record.”
Even as Sessions recused himself from any investigation surrounding Russia’s involvement in the US presidential campaign, President Donald Trump stood by Session late Thursday.
“Jeff Sessions is an honest man,” he said in a statement.