Trump condemns 'witch hunt' after Jeff Sessions quits Russia probes

Ashish Joshi, Sky Correspondent in the US

Donald Trump has accused Democrats of conducting a "witch hunt" in their criticism of his Attorney General over his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign.

It comes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he will not take part in any investigations into Russian interference in last year's election after it emerged that he twice spoke with Sergey Kislyak during the campaign and failed to say so when asked by Congress.

Mr Sessions has continued to draw a distinction between his conversations with the Russian ambassador in his role as a senator and his role in Mr Trump's presidential campaign.

At a news conference yesterday, he said: "I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign.

"I feel I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in."

The President said he had "total" confidence in Mr Sessions as he visited Newport News in Virginia to meet sailors and shipbuilders on an aircraft carrier.

On Friday, he accused Democrats of "overplaying their hand". He tweeted: "Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional."

:: Sessions' Russia meetings - and why they matter

A policy adviser to Mr Trump as he fought for the presidency, Mr Sessions did not disclose the communications when he was asked at his confirmation hearing whether "anyone affiliated" with the campaign had contact with Moscow.

But he denied trying to mislead anyone about his contacts with the Russian, saying: "That is not my intent, that is not correct."

However, he admitted that he "should have slowed down and said 'but I did meet with one Russian official a couple of times'".

Mr Sessions also told reporters that his decision to recuse himself from any potential investigation was made on the recommendation of his staff, adding that it "should not be interpreted as confirmation of the existence of any investigation".

Several Congressional Republicans had called on Mr Sessions to recuse himself from investigations into alleged Russian interference with the election that brought Mr Trump to power.

Mr Sessions had told NBC News on Thursday morning he would recuse himself "whenever it's appropriate"

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