Donald Trump faced a new storm on Thursday due to contacts between some of his relatives and Russian officials during the presidential campaign, the Democratic opposition calling for the resignation of his Minister of Justice.
Jeff Sessions, one of the closest US president he inspired anti-immigration policy, said he met with the Russian ambassador to the United States twice last year, in apparent contradiction to recent statements.
He is the second closest to Donald Trump to be accused of not telling the whole truth about his contacts with Russian officials, after Michael Flynn, who resigned on 13 February from his position as a national security adviser.
This affair with drawers poisons the beginning of mandate of the successor of Barack Obama, who often said to want to improve the relationship with Moscow.
The Democratic opposition in Congress has demanded the resignation of Jeff Sessions. Within the majority, the malaise also swells.
Several Republican politicians joined the Democrats to demand the appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate the existence of links between the entourage of candidate Donald Trump and Russian officials.
Under the Obama administration, Washington publicly accused Moscow of conducting a piracy and interference campaign to try to discredit Hillary Clinton before the November 8 election. Donald Trump denied any collusion with Russia.
Lies under oath
Jeff Sessions confirmed that he met with Ambassador Sergei Kisliak during a speech in July and then personally in his office in Congress in September, as the Washington Post revealed Wednesday.
He said appointments were part of his duties as a senator, not as a Donald Trump advisor.
Mr Sessions had declared before the Senate at his hearing in January to be confirmed that he had “no contact with the Russians”, which is a lie for the Democrats under oath.
“I never met a Russian to discuss a political campaign,” the minister said on Thursday at NBC.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer denounced Fox News as “partisan political games.” “They should be ashamed,” he said.
“The Department of Justice must be above reproach. For the good of the country, Minister Sessions must resign, “Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer said at a news conference on Thursday.
House Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi called for his resignation on Wednesday night.
Malaise in the majority
The current responsibilities of Jeff Sessions are at the heart of the problem.
The Attorney General supervises the FBI and thus the investigation that the federal police is conducting on the attempt of Russian interference and on the possible contacts between relatives of the billionaire and the Russian officials.
In February, the revelation that Michael Flynn had raised the subject of sanctions against Russia with Ambassador Kisliak on the phone in December had prompted Donald Trump to ask for his resignation.
Politically, this new episode prevents Donald Trump from taking advantage of his well-received speech at Congress on Tuesday.
He will visit an aircraft carrier in Virginia on Thursday afternoon.
House Speaker Paul Ryan flew to the rescue of the minister on Thursday, saying: “We have not seen any evidence involving any member of the Trump team” in the Russian interference.
But prominent representatives of the Republican majority felt that it would be simpler for him to “reject” himself, so that he no longer has supervisory power over the FBI’s investigation.
A decision that Jeff Sessions does not rule out.
“I said that when that is appropriate, I will recuse myself. There’s no doubt about that, “he told NBC on Thursday morning.
But a simple challenge is no longer enough for Democrats, and some Republicans are demanding the appointment of an independent or “special” prosecutor, who would have the power to investigate the whole case, independently of the Department of Justice.
It is this demand on which the opposition should now insist.
In Moscow, the spokesman for the Kremlin said he was not aware of the appointments between MM. Sessions and Kisliak, but stressed that it was “the ambassador’s job to have as many meetings as possible”.