Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation's top law enforcement officer, has agreed to step aside from all investigations of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.
His previous contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak has come under fire amid reports of Moscow hacking into Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“Let me be clear: I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” he said on Thursday at the Justice Department. “I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in."
He also rejected suggestions that he lied under oath and mislead Congress about his meetings with Mr Kislyak. ‘‘That is not my intent,” he said. “That is not correct.’’
Nonetheless, the attorney general said that he should have been more careful while addressing the meetings in his January hearing. ‘‘I should have slowed down and said, ‘But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times.'’’
Democratic leaders have called on Mr Sessions to resign from his post while Republicans have urged him to step aside from the investigations.
"I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign," he announced in the conference. At one point, Mr Sessions suggested that Mr Kislyak could have requested the meeting because of his role in Trump's presidential campaign.
“Ambassadors are always out trying to find out things and advance their agenda,” he said.
Earlier in the day, President Trump stood by Mr Sessions and insisted that he has total confidence in his attorney general. He also said that he shouldn’t need to remove himself from the Russia investigations.. "I don't think so at all," the President told reporters. "I don't think he should do that at all."
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that at least 100 House Democrats have called for Mr Sessions’ resignation, accusing him of lying under oath.
“The top law enforcement officer of the United States cannot be a person who lies under oath to the American people. Attorney General Sessions’ impartiality was already suspect, now we know he does not have the integrity to lead the Department of Justice,” she said in a written statement.
“Attorney General Sessions must resign immediately,” she continued. “Our security and our democracy have been undermined by Russia’s meddling, and this Administration clearly cannot be trusted to investigate itself. There must be an independent, bipartisan, outside commission to investigate the full extent of the Trump political, personal and financial connections to the Russians.”