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Trump slams 'witch hunt' over Sessions

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-03-04 12:42

Democrats demand attorney general steps down over Russia controversy

WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump accused Democrats on Thursday of conducting a "witch hunt" against Attorney General Jeff Sessions over contacts with Russia, as the veteran senator recused himself from any probe into the election campaign.

Sessions' announcement came as top Democrats called for him to resign after it emerged he had met with Russia's ambassador during the presidential election campaign, as the White House moved to forestall a snowballing controversy over its relations to Moscow.

"I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign," Sessions said at a hastily arranged news conference.

He denied any impropriety or that he lied about those encounters in his Senate confirmation hearing.

The attorney general told his confirmation hearing in January that he "did not have communications with the Russians" and did not know of any by other campaign staff.

Sessions on Thursday clarified that his denial referred to contacts made on behalf of the campaign. He said he met Kislyak in his capacity as a senator, and discussed mainly global politics with him.

Trump declared his "total" confidence in Sessions - while adding that he "wasn't aware" of contacts between Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Sessions, who was a senator actively supporting Trump's campaign at the time.

He defended Sessions again in a statement on Thursday, calling Sessions an "honest man" and accusing Democrats of carrying out "a total witch hunt!"

Sessions "did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional", Trump said.

Unswayed by Sessions's account of events, top Democrats are maintaining their calls for him to step down immediately, accusing him of perjury.

They also called for an independent prosecutor to investigate contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow, which US intelligence said interfered in the election to hurt Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Adam Schiff, a Democratic ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, rejected Sessions's claim that his contacts with Kislyak were unrelated to his work with the Trump campaign as "simply not credible".

Congressional probes

Four congressional committees have opened probes into the issue, although Democrats fear Republicans will seek to bury their investigations to protect Trump's young administration.

Two weeks ago, Trump's newly appointed national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign amid controversy over his discussions with Kislyak in December.

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Flynn had also met the diplomat in Trump Tower in December, with Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner also in attendance.

Sessions's own meetings with the envoy took place much earlier, in July and September, according to The Washington Post.

AFP - Reuters - AP

Trump slams 'witch hunt' over Sessions

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