Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer wants Sessions to resign for the 'good of the country'

PHOTO: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 23, 2016, to discuss the Supreme Courts immigration ruling. PlayAlex Brandon/AP Photo
WATCH Top Senate Dem joins calls for Sessions' resignation

Sen. Chuck Schumer today joined several Democratic lawmakers in calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions' resignation amid reports that he met with the Russian ambassador to the United States on two occasions, despite denying during his confirmation hearing that he had made contact with Russian officials.

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"The information reported last night makes it clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that Attorney General Sessions cannot possibly lead an investigation into Russian interference in our elections or come anywhere near it," the New York senator and minority leader said of revelations that Sessions had contact with the Russians last year.

He added: "There cannot be even the scintilla of doubt about the impartiality and fairness of the attorney general, the top law enforcement official of the land. After this, it's clear Attorney General Sessions does not meet that test. Because the Department of Justice should be above reproach, for the good of the country, Attorney General Sessions should resign.”

Schumer’s comments echoed those of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Wednesday evening who said, "Jeff Sessions lied under oath during his confirmation hearing before the Senate. Under penalty of perjury, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, 'I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.’ We now know that statement is false."

For his part, Sessions said in a statement Wednesday night that, "I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false."

Other Democratic lawmakers have called for Sessions to resign, while some say he should at least recuse himself from overseeing any investigation into the question of alleged ties between Trump officials and Russians during and after the 2016 election.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., have called for his resignation, as has Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

"It is inconceivable that even after Michael Flynn was fired for concealing his conversations with the Russians that Attorney General Sessions would keep his own conversations secret for several more weeks," said Cummings, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "Attorney General Sessions should resign immediately."

According to a Justice Department official, Sessions' meetings with ambassadors were in his capacity as a senator on the Armed Services Committee and about relations between the two countries.

But one of the Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. McCaskill, said that she has never held a call or a meeting with the Russian ambassador.

"I’ve been on the Senate Armed Services Committee for 10 years, and in that time, have had no call from, or meeting with, the Russian ambassador," McCaskill said in a statement released this morning. "Ever. That’s because ambassadors call members of Foreign Relations Committee. Attorney General Sessions should resign.”

But in light of tweets that surfaced today showing McCaskill had, in fact, met with the ambassador in a group setting, the senator clarified that she has never had a one-on-one meeting with Kislyak, as Sessions did.

She responded on Twitter about her old tweets, arguing that “4 years ago went to meeting of many Senators about international adoptions. Russian Amb also attended,” and, “Again, As senior member of Armed Serv, never received call or request from Russian Amb for meeting. Never met one on one w/him.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said on Twitter that the attorney general should resign "if it turns out Sessions lied under oath."

Many other lawmakers have stopped short of calling for resignation, but argued that the attorney general should recuse himself from leading Justice Department investigations over the alleged links between Russian officials and Trump officials, as well as Russia's purported involvement in influencing the 2016 election.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said in a statement that "the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately.”

Likewise, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., tweeted that Sessions "should recuse himself from investigations into Russia."

Top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., also called for Sessions to recuse himself and said that President Trump should appoint a special prosecutor to investigate alleged Russian interference into the election.

Republican reactions have been mixed. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Oversight Committee chair Jason Chaffetz both said that Sessions should recuse himself, while other Republicans are defending Sessions.

“With the notion that there was something somehow wrong with a senior senator on the armed services committee meeting with a foreign ambassador -- I think it’s a nothing burger," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said this morning on MSNBC.