WASHINGTON – Most Maryland Democrats are calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign after failing to disclose to Congress conversations he had last year with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in July and September of last year. Sessions did not remember in detail what he discussed with Kislyak, nor did he consider the conversations relevant to the lawmakers’ questions in his January confirmation hearing, according to Justice Department officials.
But Sessions was an early supporter of Donald Trump and acted as a campaign surrogate, a role that makes contacts with Russia at a time that nation apparently was engaged in trying to influence the 2016 presidential election very significant and troubling, according to Maryland Democrats.
“It is inconceivable that even after Michael Flynn was fired for concealing his conversations with the Russians that Attorney General Sessions would keep his own conversations secret for several more weeks,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, said in a statement. “Attorney General Sessions should resign immediately, and there is no longer any question that we need a truly independent commission to investigate this issue.”
Cummings and Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, also a Democrat, have introduced bills creating a nonpartisan, independent commission to investigate Russia’s interference in the election.
Cardin called the timing of the Sessions meetings “concerning.”
“Why was the Russian ambassador interested in meeting with Sessions in the campaign period?” Cardin asked during remarks on the Senate floor. “We need to get to the answers to that.”
He stopped short of calling for Sessions to quit.
Shortly after the news broke Wednesday night, Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen said Sessions “was struck with a bout of amnesia about his conversations with the Russians during the presidential campaign.”
Van Hollen said the attorney general should resign.
Most Maryland House members agreed.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with and communicated with the Russian Ambassador, who has been described by experts as Russia’s top spy and top spy recruiter,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Kensington, said in a statement. “Sessions then prevaricated about it, volunteering a false statement under oath before Congress.”
Raskin tweeted Thursday afternoon that he has joined other Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee calling for an immediate criminal investigation into Sessions statements before Congress.
Sarah Isgur Flores, Sessions’ spokeswoman, said “there was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer” to questions during his confirmation hearing regarding communications with Russia, according to NBC News. She said his answers were not misleading because he was asked about communications with Russia centered around the Trump campaign, not about communications he had as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sessions released a statement Wednesday night stating he had “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
Flynn resigned on Feb. 13 after it was revealed he misled the White House about his conversations with Kislyak.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, of Mechanicsville, said in a statement that Sessions’ failure to disclose Russian communication demands “his immediate resignation.”
“This news makes it even more imperative that an independent commission be established to investigate Russian interference and the Trump Administration and (the) campaign’s ties to Russia,” Hoyer said.
Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, also released a statement calling for Sessions’ resignation. By lying under oath during his confirmation hearing, Sessions “has effectively disqualified himself from serving as our nation’s top law enforcement officer,” Sarbanes said.
Like his Maryland congressional colleagues, Sarbanes said that this information is even more reason to appoint an independent commission to investigate ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“Sessions should immediately recuse himself from the Department of Justice investigation of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian official,” Raskin said. “Then Sessions must resign as Attorney General, or he must be removed by the President.”
Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac, said Sessions misled senators “about a matter of grave national security importance.”
“Instead of corroding public confidence in the bedrock of our institutions any further, Mr. Sessions, for the good of the country, should resign immediately,” Delaney said.
In a statement on Facebook, Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Upper Marlboro, said that Sessions must resign because he is “not fit” to serve in the office.
“The Attorney General has betrayed the trust of the American people, and weakened the faith they have in our justice system,” Brown said.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Timonium, said Sessions “at the very least” should recuse himself from any investigation into Trump-Russia ties.
But he added the latest revelations underscore the need for Trump to release his tax returns.
“The American public deserves to know the extent of these dealings and if these connections could affect our national security,” Ruppersberger said in a statement. “The President promised to release his tax returns after an audit concluded. I am calling on him to finally make good on that promise – put it out there if you have nothing to hide.”