Government

Ryan, Brown to Sessions: Resign; Portman Seeks Recusal

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman joined growing calls today for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to either recuse himself from investigating possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of the Russian government or step down from his post.

The calls come following revelations in the Washington Post that Sessions, a former U.S. senator and Trump surrogate during the 2016 campaign, met twice last year with the Russian ambassador to the United States. The disclosure does not match Sessions’ sworn testimony during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

Asked by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., how he would respond as attorney general to evidence that anyone with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign, Sessions responded that he was unaware of such activities.

“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians,” he added.

Last Wednesday Sessions’ spokesman released this statement: “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss the issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

And today White House spokesman Sean Spicer told Fox News that Sessions “was 100% straight with the committee,” suggesting the controversy is intended to distract from the praise about President Trump’s speech Tuesday to a joint meeting of Congress.

Sessions “has lost all credibility to serve as our nation’s top law enforcement officer,” Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said in a statement issued this morning that called for Sessions to resign. Although he said Sessions has indicated his willingness to recuse himself from the ongoing FBI and Department of Justice, the time for that has passed, the congressman said.

“I call on Republican leadership in Congress to immediately form an independent commission and special prosecutor to fully investigate any connections between the Trump Administration and Russian government officials – similar to the nonpartisan 9/11 Commission,” Ryan said. “The lies must stop. This issue goes to the very heart of our democracy, and must be investigated with full transparency. History will remember how Congress responds, and the time for action is now.”

Ryan was more pointed in an email to supporters from his congressional campaign committee. “What the hell is going on?” he asked in the subject line. The email contained links to a petition supporters could sign to demand Sessions’ resignation.

Brown, D-Ohio, echoed Ryan’s call for Sessions to resign as attorney general, calling it “deeply disturbing” that he would “lie under oath,” especially with regard to his dealings with Russia’s ambassador, given bipartisan calls for investigations of the Trump administration’s ties to Moscow.

“It is no longer enough that the attorney general recuse himself in these investigations,” Brown said in a statement. “He must resign his post immediately. Ohioans deserve a top law enforcement official they can trust, who doesn’t lie to the American people under oath.”

Portman, R-Ohio, in a one-sentence statement issued by his office, offered that it would be best if Sessions, whom he described as “a former colleague and a friend,” to recuse himself from “any” investigation by the Justice Department of Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.

Earlier today, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, and U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who heads the House Oversight Committee, both called on Sessions to step aside from any investigation.

At the same time, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he doesn’t “see any purpose of reason” for Session to recuse himself unless he is is the subject of an investigation.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York, both Democrats, both called on Sessions to step down as attorney general.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.