Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Thursday that he is recusing himself from a federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Sessions faced mounting pressure from both Democrats and Republicans to step aside after revelations that he had twice talked with Moscow's U.S. envoy during the presidential campaign. Some elected officials even called for Sessions to resign from his position as attorney general altogether.
The conversations he had with the ambassador seem to contradict his sworn statements to members of Congress during his confirmation hearings. Sessions says he didn't lie when he testified that he had no interaction with Russians during the 2016 election campaign.
At a news conference Thursday, he continued to draw a distinction between his conversations with the Russian ambassador in his role as a senator and his role in the Trump campaign. The Justice Department said there was nothing improper about the meetings.
The attorney general had said earlier this week that he would recuse himself whenever appropriate. And earlier on Thursday, President Trump said he had "total" confidence in Sessions.
When an attorney general has recused themselves in the past, investigations were handled by lower-ranking but still senior political-appointees within the Justice Department.
Sessions said he is stepping aside at the urging of senior career officials in the Justice Department. Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente will handle any matters related to the investigation going forward.
Since last year, there have been questions about ties between Trump and Russia. Sessions is the third person in the president's circle that appears to have ties to the Russian government.
Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort resigned last August after questions were raised surrounding his business deals with Russia-aligned leaders in Ukraine.
Then, last month, Michael Flynn resigned from his position as National Security Advisor over conversations he'd had with the same Russian ambassador as Jeff Sessions.