UPDATE 3/2/17 @ 10:35 p.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump is praising his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and accusing Democrats of conducting a "witch hunt" in their criticism of Sessions' testimony about his contact with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign.
Sessions on Thursday recused himself from any investigation into Russian meddling in America's 2016 presidential election. He acted after it was revealed that he twice spoke with the Russian ambassador during the campaign and failed to say so when pressed by Congress. Some Democrats are accusing him of lying and calling for him to step down.
In a statement Thursday night, Trump calls Session "an honest man" who did nothing wrong. The president says Sessions "could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional."
Trump says Democrats are trying to save face after losing the election, are overplaying their hand and have lost their grip on reality.
Trump says the real story is all of the "illegal leaks" of classified or other information. He concludes, "This is a total witch hunt!"
UPDATE 3/2/17 @ 4:25 p.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he will recuse himself from a federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 White House election.
Sessions faced mounting pressure from both Democrats and Republicans to step aside after revelations that he had twice talked with Moscow's U.S. envoy during the presidential campaign. Sessions' conversations with the ambassador seem to contradict his sworn statements to Congress during his confirmation hearings.
The Justice Department said there was nothing improper about the meetings. Sessions insisted he never met with Russian officials to discuss the campaign.
Sessions said this week he would recuse himself when appropriate.
When attorneys general have recused themselves in the past, investigations were handled by lower-ranking but still senior political-appointees within the Justice Department.
UPDATE 3/2/17 @ 9:20 a.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions is responding to allegations that he talked Russia during the presidential campaign.
There are revelations that Sessions talked twice with Russia's ambassador to the United States.
But during his confirmation hearing, Sessions said he had had no communications with the Russians.
Sessions issued a statement last night saying, "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."
ORIGINAL STORY 3/1/17
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions had two conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign.
The Justice Department said Wednesday night that 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 says the other occurred in a group setting with other ambassadors following a Heritage Foundation speech.
Sessions says he "never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign."
Revelations of the contact, first reported by The Washington Post, were 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.