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Attorney General Sessions Recuses Himself From Probe of Russian Election Interference

Sessions said he made the decision based on a recommendation Thursday from senior ethics staffers in the Department of Justice.
Image: Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers a statement to the media regarding allegations he spoke with Russian officials
Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers a statement to the media regarding allegations he spoke with Russian officials during the general election campaign.NBC News

Embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions bowed to pressure Thursday and said he would recuse himself from any federal probe of Russian meddling in the presidential election.

Insisting again that he had no improper contacts with the Russians, Sessions said he nevertheless will withdraw because of his involvement in the Trump campaign.

Sessions said he met with Department of Justice ethics lawyers and concluded: "I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in."

And that goes for any investigations pertaining to the presidential campaigns as well, he said.

“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 in his statement.

"This announcement should not be interpreted as confirmation of the existence of any investigation or suggestive of the scope of any such investigation," Sessions added.

Related: Democrats to Jeff Sessions: Recusal Is Not Enough

Sessions is under fire for not disclosing during his confirmation hearing that he met with the Russian ambassador during the campaign.

"In retrospect, I should have slowed down and said, 'But I did meet with one Russian official a couple times, that would be the ambassador'," he told reporters, adding that he intends to write the Judiciary Committee to explain his testimony.

Meanwhile, NBC News confirmed a report in The New York Times on Thursday that Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and recently resigned National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had a "brief courtesy meeting" in December with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The meeting, which Kislyak requested, lasted for roughly 15 minutes, a senior Trump administration official said.

Hillary Clinton and her campaign, however, kept their distance from Kislyak, two senior Clinton officials told NBC News. Neither the candidate nor anybody from her team met or spoke with the Russian diplomat, they said.

Related: Meet the Shadowy Apparatchik at the Center of Trump’s Russia Crisis

Sessions announced his recusal shortly after President Donald Trump told reporters he had "total" confidence in his AG amid calls from some lawmakers that he recuse himself or resign from the Justice Department.

Earlier Thursday, Sessions had denied meeting with Russian officials during the course of the presidential election to discuss the Trump campaign.

"I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign," he told NBC News, "and those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false. And I don't have anything else to say about that."

Asked whether he would bow to demands from a growing chorus of Democratic and Republican lawmakers that he step aside from investigating alleged ties between Trump's surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government, Sessions answered, "I have said whenever it's appropriate, I will recuse myself. There's no doubt about that."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) said he welcomed Sessions' recusal but added that the AG still needs to answer questions about his contacts with the Russians.

"He has to be brought back to the Judiciary Committee and provide an explanation," Blumenthal told NBC News.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) applauded Sessions' move on Twitter.