Maine’s U.S. senators expressed satisfaction Thursday after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from oversight of any investigations related to the 2016 presidential campaign, including those probing possible Russian ties to the Trump campaign.

“The attorney general was right to recuse himself from any campaign-related investigation, and I look forward to reviewing the letter he intends to send to the Senate Judiciary Committee explaining the discrepancy in his original remarks,” Sen. Angus King, an independent, said in a written statement Thursday evening.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, tweeted later Thursday evening that Sessions had made a “good decision” by recusing himself.

Earlier in the day, Collins had called for Sessions’ recusal after it was reported that he misled Congress about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign.

“Attorney General Sessions should recuse himself to ensure public confidence in the Justice Department’s investigation,” Maine’s senior senator said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “He should also clarify his statements to the Judiciary Committee with respect to his communications with the Russian ambassador.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, called for Sessions’ resignation, while Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, had called for his recusal. King had reiterated his previous calls for Sessions to recuse himself.


Collins championed Sessions’ nomination as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, providing a glowing introduction to her Senate colleagues that disturbed those concerned about his stances on women’s rights, protections for LGBTQ people, the legalization of marijuana and minority voting rights.

As of midday Thursday, more than two dozen members of Congress had called for Sessions to recuse himself, including Republican senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rob Portman of Ohio, and Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who heads the House oversight committee.

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and at least 21 Democrats, including Pingree and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, had called for Sessions to resign outright.

In an interview late Thursday morning, Pingree said Sessions should resign as “it seems very clear that he lied under oath” during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee when he denied having any contacts with Russian officials during the campaign. “That’s perjury, something the top lawyer in the country should know not to do.”

After Sessions’ announcement, she reiterated her call for his resignation at a meeting with reporters at Portland International Jetport. She said this was “because by all accounts the AG lied in front of the committee and in front of other senators who were asking him a direct question.”

Pingree told the Press Herald earlier in the day that the revelations heightened the need for an independent probe of Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign. “If nothing else, we need to put the issue to bed,” she said. “Whatever there is or isn’t in the president’s tax returns or the relationship with Russian officials, let’s just find out, because it’s become distracting to all.”


Poliquin released a statement Thursday afternoon in which he, for the first time, called on Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigations. After Sessions did so, Poliquin spokesman Brendan Conley was asked for the congressman’s reaction and said: “Obviously, he felt this action was appropriate.”

“The American people must have confidence in the integrity and impartiality of our Justice Department and their investigations,” Poliquin said in the statement. “If Attorney General Sessions is the subject of an investigation, I believe it would be appropriate for him to recuse himself.”

King reiterated his stance that Sessions should recuse himself but did not call for his resignation.

“These are serious and troubling accusations, and they are ones that Attorney General Sessions must address immediately and fully – both to Congress and to the American people,” King said in a statement Thursday. “I believe the circumstances demand that he come before the Senate Judiciary Committee again to clarify his original remarks, which do not appear to be factual, and to fully explain this inconsistency. Additionally, I have long said that in order to ensure impartiality and objectivity, Attorney General Sessions should recuse himself from any Russia-related investigations, and I continue to believe that is the proper course of action.”

The attorney general’s recusal followed revelations Wednesday night that Sessions had met twice with the Russian ambassador in the midst of the campaign, yet had told the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath that “I didn’t have, did not have communications with the Russians.” Sessions was an early and prominent campaigner for Donald Trump, appearing beside him at rallies wearing matching red “Make America Great Again” baseball hats.

At the news conference Thursday, Sessions said he had met with Department of Justice ethics officials.

“They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation,” he said.

Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

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