Attorney General Jeff Sessions removed himself from investigations into Russian interference in American politics and contacts with associates of President Donald Trump, after the Justice Department acknowledged he had contacts with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 campaign.
“I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States,” Sessions said Thursday in a written statement as he opened a press conference in Washington.
The move comes after the Justice Department confirmed Wednesday that Sessions spoke twice last year with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak while serving as a prominent supporter and adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign. Sessions testified during his Senate confirmation hearing Jan. 10 that “I did not have communications with the Russians.”
In removing himself, Sessions put acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente in charge of leading any election-related investigation. Boente previously served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. While Boente was nominated for the Virginia post by former President Barack Obama, Trump’s team chose Boente to serve as acting deputy after firing Sally Yates, an Obama administration holdover who refused to enforce the president’s controversial travel ban from seven mostly Muslim countries.
Sessions said his decision came after several weeks of consultation with senior career officials in the Justice Department.