Democrats from Colorado were quick to condemn Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who met twice with Russia’s ambassador during the presidential campaign -- meetings he did not disclose during his confirmation process despite being asked about contact with Russia.
The Justice Department says Sessions met with the ambassador in his capacity as a member of the armed services committee, as first reported by the Washington Post Thursday night:
“Officials said Sessions did not consider the conversations relevant to the lawmakers’ questions and did not remember in detail what he discussed with [Russian Ambassador Sergey] Kislyak.”
In written and oral testimony to the senate during his confirmation process, Sessions denied knowing of any contact between Trump campaign surrogates (a title he embraced for himself) and denied any contact with Russia in regards to the 2016 election.
The first Colorado Republican member of congress to criticize Sessions was Rep. Mike Coffman, who said Sessions “made a grave omission by not disclosing his meetings with the Russian Ambassador last year,” and called for Sessions to detach himself from investigations into Russia.
“I think it would be more than prudent for him to recuse himself from any Russian inquiry, and I would encourage him to fully disclose any and all foreign contacts he had during the course of the campaign,” Coffman added in his written statement.
Before Coffman’s statement, Sessions had already hinted Thursday morning that he may recuse himself from the investigation, and some other Republicans agreed with this approach. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah,) who chairs the oversight committee, also called for recusal.
But earlier in the morning, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) took a different approach, telling NPR News he was not in favor of Sessions recusing himself from Russian investigations, arguing that “we need more information in this case.”
He provided 9NEWS with the following statement:
“Attorney General Sessions should explain the substance of his conversations with the Russian ambassador and communicate why those meetings were not acknowledged during his confirmation hearing. The American people deserve full transparency, and I’m confident that the ongoing FBI and bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigations will deliver answers.”
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado) doesn’t think Sessions needs to change course.
“There are many Senators that have had conversations with Russian officials,” Buck told 9NEWS. “I don’t think it’s any reason for him to resign, certainly, and I don’t think it’s necessary for him to recuse himself.”
Colorado Democrats also weighed in on Sessions.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) said that recent developments connecting the Trump campaign to Russia “point to the possibility that our democracy is being undermined by a foreign power with the consent of the White House,” and joined house Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi in calling for Sessions to resign or be removed.
“Attorney General Sessions’ contact with the Russian ambassador while an advisor to the Trump campaign once again proves this administration’s causal relationship with transparency and the truth,” DeGette said in a written statement. “If these revelations are true, he has perjured himself. In any case, given what we now know, the Attorney General should resign immediately or be removed.”
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) echoed DeGette's concerns about the Trump administration's ties to Russia.
"Obviously, Jeff Sessions is not the best person to investigate Jeff Sessions, and he needs to recuse himself from any investigations involving Russia and the Trump campaign," Polis said in a statement. "In addition, if Sessions is found guilty of perjuring himself during his Senate confirmation hearing, he should resign."
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) was more guarded in his response. He stopped short of calling for Sessions’ ouster, but said the new Attorney General should recuse himself from the Justice Department investigation into alleged Russian hacking intended to benefit President Trump’s candidacy.
“Jeff Sessions should recuse himself and appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 election and connections to the Trump campaign,” Bennet said in a statement. “The integrity of our democratic institutions is at stake, and the American people deserve the truth.”
Bennet also said the independent investigation should include a probe of Sessions’ contact with Russian officials.
9NEWS asked whether he might join the calls for Sessions' resignation. His office said he is "gathering more information. At the minimum, AG Sessions should recuse himself."
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, also a Democrat, said this investigation calls for a special prosecutor:
“With AG Sessions now at the center of this investigation, it’s clear he cannot be trusted to conduct a full and fair investigation into the ties between Trump officials and Russia. Furthermore, as a lawyer and a member of the Bar Association, AG Sessions has an obligation to avoid any appearance of impropriety and this standard appears to have been breached. A special prosecutor needs to be appointed immediately in order to lead a neutral investigation and get to the bottom of this. This certainly leads us to wonder what the President, the Attorney General and the Administration are hiding. Congressional Republicans have continued to obstruct the process to investigate ties between Russia and President Trump and his officials.”
And Governor Hickenlooper said that recusal may not be enough:
"I’m not sure if recusal is sufficient. It may be an appropriate first step, but we need to see the results of the investigation. The Attorney General’s #1 priority is to uphold the laws of the land. If the investigation finds that a law was broken, a different response may be called for."