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Trump Defends Sessions Over Russia Controversy, Lashes Out at Democrats

The president defended Sessions as "an honest man" amid the controversy over the the then senator's contacts with Russia's ambassador last year.
Image: Sen. Jeff Sessions is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee
Sen. Jeff Sessions is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing to be the U.S. attorney general on Jan. 10, 2017 in Washington. Sessions was one of the first members of Congress to endorse and support President-elect Donald Trump, who nominated him for Attorney General.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images, file

President Donald Trump lashed out at Democrats he said "have lost their grip on reality" Thursday in a statement defending Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the controversy surrounding his past conversations with Russia’s envoy to the United States.

Trump also conceded that Sessions could have been more accurate in previous statements before the Senate about his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. "He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional," Trump said.

Sessions is under fire for not disclosing during his confirmation hearing that he met with Kislyak during the campaign when he was a senator. Sessions said he understood the question at the confirmation hearing to be about contacts regarding the campaign, and said he should have answered differently.

"In retrospect I should have slowed down, and said, 'but I did meet one Russian official a couple of times — that would be the ambassador,'" Sessions said at a news conference Thursday.

Related: Attorney General Sessions Recuses Himself From Probe of Russian Election Interference

Sessions said he would recuse himself in any federal probe of the Trump campaign, which could include an investigation of Russian meddling in the presidential election.

Dozens of Congressional Democrats have called on Sessions to resign over the incident.

Trump, however, called Sessions "an honest man" and said he didn’t do anything wrong. He accused Democrats and government leakers of being on "a total witch hunt" to take Sessions down. "This whole narrative is a way of saving face" over the Democrats' election loss, Trump said in the statement. "They have lost their grip on reality."

The president also repeated his claim that "the real story is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information."

Trump also blamed “leaks” when his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned after misleading Vice President Mike Pence and others about conversations he had with Russia’s ambassador prior to Trump's inauguration.

Related: At Heart of Russia Crisis, Kislyak Stays in Shadows

The Washington Post first reported on Feb. 9 that those conversations included discussions of U.S. sanctions levied against Russia over an alleged operation to interfere with the U.S. presidential election. Flynn resigned days later.

Trump at a press conference last month said Flynn did nothing wrong, but said “I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence.”