- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday he had not examined in detail recent interactions between top FBI officials and the White House regarding alleged connections between Trump administration officials and Russia, nor has he decided whether or not to recuse himself from any potential Justice Department investigation of the matter.

But Mr. Sessions said the fact contact occurred between law enforcement agencies and the White House was not inherently improper.

“The FBI and Department of Justice have to remain independent and they will do so,” Mr. Sessions said Monday during a brief question and answer session with reporters at the Justice Department. “But every contact is not improper.”

White House officials said last week that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Feb. 15 after a meeting on an unrelated matter that a New York Times story on alleged contact between Trump campaign officials and Russia last year was not accurate. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Mr. Priebus asked Mr. McCabe to tell the media about it, but both he and FBI Director James B. Comey declined.

The contact between the FBI and the White House has been characterized as unusual by former administration officials, including former CIA director John O. Brennan. Meanwhile Democrats have pressed for an independent investigation of ties between Russia and Trump campaign officials during the presidential campaign, saying Mr. Priebus’ conversation with a top FBI official is a hindrance to any impartial investigation.

If the FBI uncovers evidence of wrongdoing, the findings would be handed over to Mr. Sessions, but Democrats have called for him to recuse himself from the case because he campaigned on behalf of Mr. Trump during the presidential race.

Mr. Sessions declined Monday to elaborate on his own thought process regarding any recusal.

“I would recuse myself on anything I should recuse myself on, that’s all I can tell you,” Mr. Sessions said.

The White House has pushed back against accusations that Mr. Priebus acted inappropriately by asking the FBI to refute media reports about alleged contact between Trump campaign officials and Russia last year. Mr. Spicer on Friday cited a report on CNN claiming that the White House exerted “pressure” on the FBI, and said it was untrue.

“Pressure, by definition, is applying force,” Mr. Spicer said. “If we had said, ‘If you don’t do this, if you don’t do that,’ that’s pressure. That would have been wrong. I don’t know what else we were supposed to do. Had we not done anything, it would have been irresponsible and frankly malpractice.”

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