Sen. Roy Blunt on Thursday defended the latest Trump administration official under fire for having contacts with Russian officials during the presidential campaign.
Blunt, a Missouri Republican, argued that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ meetings with the Russian ambassador in July and September when Sessions was still in the U.S. Senate were routine for someone in his position.
“He has said he had no discussions with Russian officials regarding the election, and I take him at his word,” Blunt said in a news release Thursday morning. “Part of the job of a United States Senator involves talking to the ambassadors of countries. I’ve talked to at least twenty ambassadors in the last six weeks. It would have been very normal for Sessions, as a senator, to have talked to the Russian ambassador without discussing the election.”
Sessions came under fire Wednesday when the Washington Post reported about his meetings with the Russian ambassador. Sessions was an early and prominent supporter of the Trump campaign. In his confirmation hearings in January, Sessions testified that “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
After the Post story broke, Sessions released a statement 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.”
Some Democrats have called for Sessions’ resignation. A small number of Capitol Hill Republicans have said he should recuse himself from investigations into whether there were any improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians — who’ve been identified by U.S. intelligence agencies as having tried to influence the presidential campaign to Hillary Clinton’s disadvantage.
Blunt said in his news release that “the Senate Intelligence Committee is the best place to determine the facts regarding Russian involvement in our elections. … Finding out exactly what the Russian government did or assisted in during our elections can help protect the democratic process in other countries as well as ours.”
The Republican senator said it could take “at least six months” for any new investigation to make the progress already achieved by that committee.
“I intend to go to CIA headquarters in the next week to look at all the documents and reports myself,” Blunt’s statement said. “Our investigation should talk to everyone that any reasonable person would think should be talked to, and look at any material a reasonable person would think should be looked at.”
Blunt’s statement did not say whether he believed Sessions should recuse himself from any investigation. The attorney general signaled on Thursday that he might be willing to do so.