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President Trump took to Twitter to share his thoughts about Jeff Sessions

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UPDATE 9:50 p.m. EST: 

President Trump took to Twitter to share his thoughts about the events surrounding his Cabinet member, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on Thursday.

UPDATE 4:25 p.m. EST:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed the controversy surrounding his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak at an afternoon press conference. He said he "never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the campaign."

While Sessions denied any wrongdoing, he did recuse himself from any investigation into "matters dealing with the Trump campaign."

WATCH | Sessions addressed the controversy at an afternoon press conference.

The statement on recusal.

President Trump took to Twitter to share his thoughts about Jeff Sessions

WATCH | Lawmakers spoke about the firestorm surrounding Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

UPDATE 2:08 p.m. EST: President Trump said he had "total" confidence in Sessions.

UPDATE 12:53 p.m.:

Russia's Foreign Ministry insisted that Sergei Kislyak, its ambassador to the U.S. who had spoken with Sessions, was not a spy. 

CNN reported that Kislyak is considered by U.S. intelligence to be one of Russia's top spies and a spy recruiter. Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called those reports "shameful," "total misinformation," and "vandalism."

The Washington Post reports that current U.S. officials view Kislyak as a diplomat.

President Trump took to Twitter to share his thoughts about Jeff Sessions

WATCH | Here's Zakharova's response to the reports.

This emotional atmosphere builds up a certain resistance to the idea of developing a relationship with Russia.
Dmitry Peskov

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the reports about Kislyak were "blown out of proportion," adding that Russia has never interfered in the domestic affairs of another country and has no plan to do so. But the accusations could have diplomatic impact.

UPDATE  10:56 a.m.:

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) hinted that jail time might be possible for Sessions in a statement.

"We must be entirely clear on one thing: Perjury is a felony and may be punishable by prison for up to five years," Ellison's statement read. 

Protesters are demanding Jeff Sessions' resignation and chanting 'lock him up'

WATCH | Here's the background you need on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his conversations with a Russian diplomat. 

UPDATE 10:30 a.m.:

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) demanded Attorney General Jeff Sessions' resignation in a scathing address.

Schumer said Sessions had "weeks" to correct the record on comments in his Senate confirmation hearing. He added that allowing Sessions to investigate Russian ties would be akin to letting him investigate himself, and an independent special prosecutor should be named to investigate Russian ties. 

If the White House did not name a sufficiently independent prosecutor, Democrats would urge Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to pass a new version of the Independent Counsel Law to continue the investigation.

Schumer also called for the Inspector General to ensure the investigation into Russian ties had not already been compromised by Sessions' conversations with Russia.

UPDATE 9:06 a.m.: Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)  joined calls for Sessions to recuse himself from investigations into Russian ties to the Trump campaign.

Chaffetz is the chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

Here's Chaffetz's tweet on the subject.

UPDATE 8:13 a.m.:

Sessions, in a Thursday morning interview with NBC News, denied he had met with Russian officials "to discuss any political campaign."

His spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, said he had spoken to Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak twice, once during the Republican National Convention and once in a meeting in his Senate office later in the year. She said he spoke as a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said she never spoke to Kislyak despite being on that committee.

UPDATE March 2, 7:24 a.m.:

The news about Sessions' conversation with Russia broke amid The New York Times reporting that the Obama administration worked to spread information about Russian attempts to undermine the 2016 elections, and about contact between the Trump administration and Russia before Trump took office. 

Some Obama staffers feared that Trump's administration would destroy or hide evidence of its contacts with Russia after he took office.

The context you might have missed

About a week before Trump took office, the Obama administration changed the rules on who could see classified information from the NSA, The Atlantic reported. This will allow government agencies to apply to view raw, unedited feeds of NSA intelligence before privacy protections are put in place. 

While privacy advocates argued the new rules reach too far, some supporters argue it could hinder efforts by future administrations to hinder privacy. 

White House spokesman Sean Spicer dismissed the Obama administration revelations as unimportant.

"The only new piece of information that has come to light is that political appointees in the Obama administration have sought to create a false narrative to make an excuse for their own defeat in the election," Spicer said.

Meanwhile, Sessions is has faced calls to resign from leading congressional Democrats.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) capped a lengthy tweetstorm with a call for Sessions to resign.

President Trump took to Twitter to share his thoughts about Jeff Sessions

During a CNN town hall Wednesday night, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that if Sessions had spoken with Russia, a special prosecutor would need to take his place into any investigation into Russian ties.

House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) echoed Graham's calls for a recusal.

Sessions himself said he would recuse himself "whenever it's appropriate."

However, he continued to deny conversations with Russia to NBC News.

There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer.
Sarah Isgur Flores

Sessions' spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores insisted he met with Russian officials as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, not as part of the Trump campaign.

Flores said Sessions spoke with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak, during the Republican National Convention in the summer and once in his Senate office later in the year, The Wall Street Journal reports.

During his confirmation hearing, Sessions denied contact with Russia during the campaign. 

ORIGINAL STORY:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had two conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential campaign, the Justice Department said Wednesday night. The two conversations took place last year when Sessions was a senator. 

One was an office visit that occurred in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.


The department stated that the other occurred in a group setting with other ambassadors following a Heritage Foundation speech. The Washington Post first reported the contact, which was likely to fuel calls for him to step aside from an ongoing FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

The White House did not immediately comment. 





The Associated Press contributed to this report.  

Here's how some have reacted to hearing about Jeff Sessions' conversations. 

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