Jeff Sessions' meetings with Russia draw criticism from Northern Virginia legislators

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Washington, March 2, 2017 | comments
Alex Koma

Several members of Northern Virginia’s Congressional delegation are now joining dozens of other lawmakers in demanding that Attorney General Jeff Sessions either resign his post or recuse himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential contact with Russian officials.

Those calls follow revelations late March 1 that Sessions met twice with Russian envoys when he was still a U.S. senator, a pair of meetings that he failed to disclose while under oath during his confirmation hearing.

Sessions has alternately claimed that he was meeting with Russian officials in his capacity as a senator, not as a surrogate for the Trump campaign, and that he doesn’t recall ever discussing election issues in those conversations. Even still, more than a hundred Congressional Democrats are now publicly calling on Sessions to resign his post, and a handful of Republicans have started pressuring him to step away from the Justice Department’s probe of contacts between Russian intelligence officials and President Donald Trump’s campaign.

So far, Rep. Don Beyer, D-8th District, is the only Northern Virginia lawmaker to call for Sessions’ outright resignation, charging that Sessions “disqualified himself to lead our Department of Justice when he lied before Congress in his confirmation hearings.”

“Senator Sessions would not have accepted this willful dishonesty from another nominee and there is no reason he should be treated differently,” Beyer said in a statement. “The shifting explanations from the Department of Justice about Attorney General Sessions’ false statements further undermine his ability to serve. If the conversations he had with the Russian ambassador are as unmemorable and inconsequential as he says, then certainly there was no reason to lie about them under oath.”

Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-11th District, and Barbara Comstock, R-10th District, have been a bit more qualified in their criticism of Sessions. However, both have asked that he recuse himself from the Russia investigation, and Comstock is one of just a handful of Republicans to make such a public declaration.

“Each day there are more troubling revelations that make clear senior level Trump officials had direct contact with the Russians,” Connolly said in a statement. “Even more concerning, each of these individuals were willing to lie about those meetings. We need answers immediately. Congress must launch an independent investigation. After misleading the Senate Judiciary Committee on Russia ties, Attorney General Sessions must recuse himself and appoint a special prosecutor."

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., went a step further, asking that Sessions recuse himself from the Russia probe and also go back before the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain his inconsistent statements.

“If he refuses to publicly explain his misleading answers, or if his answers are not satisfactory, I will call for his resignation,” Kaine said in statement. “This is deeply disturbing and demonstrates, once again, the need for a full and independent investigation into all contacts between the Trump campaign, the Trump administration and the Russian government.”

Spokesmen for the area’s remaining representatives — Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st District, and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. — did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sessions’ status.

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