WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from an investigation into any ties between Moscow and President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign Thursday after revelations that he talked with Russia's ambassador to the United States twice during the presidential campaign. Sessions had faced mounting pressure from both parties on Capitol Hill that he step aside or resign.
A look at the known contacts between Trump associates and Russia:
The Justice Department acknowledged Wednesday that the attorney general twice spoke with the Russian envoy when Sessions was a senator and involved in Trump's presidential campaign. Those discussions with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, first reported in The Washington Post, seem to contradict Sessions' sworn statements during his confirmation hearings when asked what he would do if "anyone affiliated" with the campaign had been in contact with Russia. Sessions said in a statement Thursday he "never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign." Two top Democratic lawmakers have since called on Sessions to resign.
Trump's national security adviser resigned Feb. 13 after reports he misled White House officials about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. — a situation Trump was told about soon after he took office. Flynn eventually lost the president's trust after he said at first that he didn't discuss sanctions with the Russian envoy during the transition, but later admitted he may have done so. Separately, in 2015, Flynn gave a paid speech in Moscow and sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a dinner.
Flynn received a Ukrainian peace plan involving the Russian Crimea dispute right before he resigned. That plan was cobbled together by pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko and two men with ties to Trump's namesake company — longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and former Trump Organization business adviser Felix Sater, who confirmed the arrangement to The Associated Press. Sater, a Russian-born former Mafia informant, was named by Trump as an adviser to the Trump Organization as recently as 2010 even though Sater had been convicted in a major stock-fraud scheme.
Trump's former campaign chairman resigned in August after the AP disclosed his firm's covert lobbying efforts on behalf of the former pro-Russian ruling political party in the Ukraine. Those efforts, which occurred before Manafort joined the Trump campaign, included attempts to get positive press coverage of Ukrainian officials and efforts to undercut sympathy for Yulia Tymoshenko, an imprisoned rival of then-Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych. More recently, The New York Times reported Manafort and other members of Trump's campaign had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officials; Manafort said he had "never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers."
Trump said during the election he did not have any deals in Russia, but he held the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. Trump has been contradictory when describing his personal relationship with Putin, insisting during the campaign he had "no relationship with" the Russian leader and no recollection of ever meeting him. But several times in prior years, he has said the opposite. Trump has had conversations with Putin since the election, speaking to Putin shortly after he won the presidency and again eight days after he took office.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
Contact Jack Gillum at https://twitter.com/jackgillum or https://www.ap.org/tips