As concern mounts over U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his contact with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election, President Donald Trump has doubled down on his support.
Trump noted on March 2 that he has "total" confidence in his Attorney General, The Associated Press reports. When asked if Sessions should recuse himself from criminal investigations into the administration's ties to Russia, the president responded, "I don't think so."
Trump made his announcement mere hours before Sessions recused himself from any further investigations.
Furthermore, Trump stated that he "wasn't aware" of Sessions's meetings with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during Trump's presidential campaign.
The president further dismissed the story as one pushed by Democratic partisanship, The Washington Times notes.
The controversy comes one day after The Washington Post published a report on Sessions's meetings with Kislyak, which Sessions then failed to disclose to Congress while under oath during his confirmation hearings.
Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which Sessions now heads, said on March 1, "there was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer," according to CNN Tonight.
Sessions himself responded to the allegations against him.
"I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign," he said on March 1. "I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false."
While allegations of perjury have been buzzing over Sessions's response, some note the difficulty of proving such a charge.
“You have to have unambiguous proof that the statement was false and that the speaker knew it to be false,” Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor, told The Washington Post. “What that means as a prosecutor is that you have to be exceedingly careful and have to get kind of the perfect question and the perfect answer together.”
“Could a gutsy prosecutor bring a case against the attorney general for perjury? Possibly,” Paul Butler, also a former federal prosecutor, countered. “If you look at other perjury and false statement cases that the Justice Department has brought and state prosecutors have brought, I think you’d see cases that are less clear that prosecutors still bring.”
Rodgers continued: “As a prosecutor sometimes you’ll walk out of a courtroom and you’ll say, ‘Man, that guy lied through his teeth to me, I’ve got him!' And then when you review the transcript, you realize that in fact there’s some ambiguity there, and you can’t say with 100 percent certainty that the statement was false, and the speaker had to know it was false, and it was intentionally false, and it was a material matter and all of those things.”