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Tim Scott, Lindsey Graham not ready to condemn Sessions over Russian contact

March 2, 2017 GMT

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott are holding back on condemning Attorney General Jeff Sessions following revelations the former U.S. senator and early Donald Trump backer might have lied under oath about his communications with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.

Scott said Thursday he still had to “do some homework” on what repercussions there should be for Sessions, if any.

“I’ve only read a few articles about it,” said Scott, who hosted Sessions in North Charleston at the end of last year to gauge support for the controversial nominee.

“I haven’t had any conversations with other senators or leadership,” he added.

Graham has been a vocal advocate for Congress taking a leading role in investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. On Thursday he dismissed accusations that Sessions had perjured himself during his confirmation hearings.

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“It’s illegal to lie. I don’t think Jeff Session is a liar,” said Graham. “I think Jeff Sessions probably took the questions based on the way they were asked.”

It was before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Graham is a member, that Sessions denied having contact with Russian officials in his capacity as both a U.S. senator from Alabama and a prominent Trump campaign surrogate.

Sessions should, Graham continued, go public with the nature of the conversations he had with Russian officials now that it’s been confirmed those conversations took place.

Graham also did not rule out that it might be appropriate for Sessions to recuse himself under certain circumstances in any Justice Department investigations that might be underway about Trump’s communications with Russians during the campaign.

But mostly Graham was furious with a lack of information being provided to lawmakers who are frequently finding themselves caught off guard about the latest scandal of the day.

“I am tired of reading about innuendo. Somebody is leaking this crap and is putting people like me in a terrible spot,” he told a throng of reporters surrounding him with microphones and tape records on Capitol Hill.

Graham also said he wanted to know if there was an active investigation or not into Trump and Russia ties: “I’m going to meet with the FBI director today and I’m gonna look him in the eye and he’s gonna tell me if there’s an investigation or there’s not and if he doesn’t tell me he’s gonna have a hard time.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina’s only Democrat in Congress and the third most senior Democrat in the House, on Thursday joined other party leaders in demanding that Sessions step down.

“I agree with my colleagues that at a minimum #Sessions should recuse himself,” Clyburn tweeted, “BUT I am not a minimalist, #Sessions should resign.”

Graham, not speaking about Clyburn in particular, scoffed at Democrats calling for Sessions’ resignation.

“They’re crazy,” Graham said. “They’ve just absolutely lost their mind when it comes to all things Trump.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.