US Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers remarks at the Justice Department's 2017 African American History Month Observation at the Department of Justice. February 28, 2017. Washington, DC. Photograph: (AFP)
President Bush's ethics officer said Sessions must step down. While unsure if he's been blackmailed, he said it's 'way too big a risk'
A day after Washington Post revealed that US Attorney General Jeff Sessions had spoken to russian ambassador on two separate occasions. Sessions says he would recuse himself from the federal (WION)
Richard Painter, President George W Bush's top ethics lawyer, told Business Insider that he believes US Attorney General Jeff Sessions must resign.
While Painter said it was "debateable" whether or not Sessions perjured himself during his senate confirmation hearing, there is a real possibility that Russia has enough material over him for blackmail, and while "we have no way of knowing if we're in that situation, he said the possibility was "just way too high a risk".
Painter said: "The thing with Sessions is that the Russians almost certainly have a recording of these conversations or detailed notes about the conversations...And so, they've got something over Sessions. Sessions will be asked what was said in these conversations. And if that doesn't match what the Russians have in their records...then they've got him, and they have this over him for the rest of his term. We have no way of knowing if we're in that situation, but it's just way to high a risk."
During his confirmation hearing, Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had no contact with Russian officials during the campaign. He was asked by Al Franken, the Democratic Senator, what he would do if he learned that someone from the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the campaign.
Sessions responded, "Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I'm unable to comment on it."
After the Washington Post responded that actually Sessions had two conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in September 2016--while the then-senator was advising Donald Trump's presidential campaign and at the height of what US intelligence agencies are united in saying was a concerted Russian cyber espionage campaign to influence the outcome of the US election--pressure mounted for Sessions to recuse himself from any investigation into Trump's connection with Russia, and even to resign.
Sessions has since announced that he will recuse himself from any such investigation. The investigation into Russia's connection seeks to determine just how Russia influenced the 2016 presidential election, and Donald Trump's ties to Russia in general.
Democrats and even some Republicans had called for an indepedent investigator, rather than Sessions.
Trump dismissed the increasing pressure against Sessions, calling it a "witch hunt".
So far three people from Trump's camp have resigned or have been fired once their connection to Russia came to light, including former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former adviser Carter Page, and Trump's choice to lead national security Michael Flynn.
Donald Trump tweeted in July 26, 2016: "For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia."
President Trump's son, Donald Jr, told a real estate conference in 2008: "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets...We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."
Here is then-Trump adviser Paul Manafort in July of 2016, denying that Trump has any financial connections to Russia:
MUST WATCH: Paul Manafort doesn't sound very convincing here.— Yashar (@yashar) March 2, 2017
Interview was July 27, 2016 pic.twitter.com/N46Y2DOAJX
CNN reported that US intelligence believes that the Russian ambassador Sergey Kisylak--who met several people associated with Trump's camp including: Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions, and also former adviser Carter Page and Trump's son-in-law Jarred Kushner-- is considered to be one of Russia's top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington. Russia has denied this is true.
Meanwhile, The Indepedent reports that Christopher Steele, the former British MI6 spy who compiled the infamous dossier alleging Russia has blackmail material over Donald Trump, has been approached about testifying in front of the US Senate Intelligence Commitee's investigation into Trump's alleged links with Russia.
Trump has dismissed Steele's allegations, and called him a "failed spy".
In the past Donald Trump has denied having any connection to Vladimir Putin repeatedly, but has also bragged about his personal relationship with the Russian President.