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US Attorney General Jeff Sessions under fire for contradicting statements

White House defends US Attorney General after report says he did not disclose meetings with Russian envoy

WASHINGTON US Attorney General Jeff Sessions came under fire after the Washington Post reported that he met twice last year with Russia's ambassador to Washington, seemingly contradicting statements he made in Senate confirmation hearings in January.

The revelation cast a fresh cloud over President Donald Trump's administration - which has repeatedly denied any suspected ties between members of the Republican's election campaign and Russia - which US intelligence says interfered in the preisdential election.

The White House quickly labelled the report an attack by partisan Democrats, confirming the meetings but arguing Mr Sessions did nothing wrong.

In a statement Mr Sessions said: "I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false."

But with US intelligence agencies, the Department of Justice, and four Congressional committees examining the Russia scandal, Democrats demanded Mr Sessions - the Trump administration's top law enforcement official - recuse himself from investigations, and for Congress to name an independent special investigator to oversee a broad probe.

"Given AG Sessions' false statements about contacts with Russian officials, we need a special counsel to investigate Trump associates' ties to Russia," said Democrat Senator Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Washington Post reported that Mr Sessions - formerly a senator who advised Mr Trump's campaign on foreign policy and other issues - met Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in July and September, just as accusations of Russian interference in the election were mounting.

Mr Sessions, however, told his confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan 10 that he did not know of contacts between Trump campaign members and Russia.

"I did not have communications with the Russians," he said under oath.

Mr Sessions was confirmed as attorney general on Feb 8, moving in place to oversee Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation probes into the alleged communications between Trump campaign officials and Moscow.

'ATTACK'

A White House official, speaking not for attribution, yesterday dubbed the report as an "attack" aimed at undermining the White House.

"This is the latest attack against the Trump administration by partisan Democrats," the official said.

"Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony."

- AFP

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