WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions, facing a chorus of criticism over his contacts with the Russian ambassador, recused himself Thursday from any current or future investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. His conversations with the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, came amid suspected Russian hacking directed at Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
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Mr. Sessions said he made the decision after meeting with senior career officials at the Justice Department. He said he would not take part in any investigations “related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States.”
He also strongly denied that any of his conversations with Russian officials were related to the presidential campaign. And he said he did not intend to deceive the Senate when he said he had no such meetings with Russian officials.
The remarks by Mr. Sessions came not long after President Trump on Thursday expressed his support for Mr. Sessions and said he should not recuse himself from the investigation. Mr. Sessions was a key adviser and surrogate for Mr. Trump’s campaign.
Touring the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, the newest American aircraft carrier, in Newport News, Va., Mr. Trump said that he “wasn’t aware” that Mr. Sessions had spoken to the ambassador, but that he believed the attorney general had testified truthfully to the Senate during his confirmation hearing.
“I think he probably did,” Mr. Trump told reporters.
Asked whether Mr. Sessions should recuse himself in the Russia investigations, the president said, “I don’t think so.”
Contacts with Russian officials have become a persistent distraction for the Trump administration. Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, was forced to resign over his conflicting statements about conversations with Mr. Kislyak. Now Mr. Sessions was forced to use his first news conference as attorney general to address questions about his impartiality.
Congressional Republicans began breaking ranks to join Democrats in demanding that Mr. Sessions recuse himself from overseeing an investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Those calls came after the disclosure that Mr. Sessions himself spoke with the Russian ambassador last year, in seeming contradiction to his testimony at his confirmation hearing.
The partisan furor that broke out with the Justice Department’s acknowledgment of the contacts late Wednesday began to take on a bipartisan sheen as the controversy spilled into Thursday morning.
Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican who leads the Oversight Committee, said on Twitter on Thursday, “AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself.” Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, said in a statement: “Jeff Sessions is a former colleague and a friend, but I think it would be best for him and for the country to recuse himself from the D.O.J. Russia probe.”
The House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Mr. Sessions “needs to clarify” his testimony, and at first appeared to indicate that he thought Mr. Sessions should recuse himself from Russia-linked investigations. “I think — the trust of the American people — you recuse yourself from these situations,” Mr. McCarthy said.
“For any investigation going forward,” he said, “you want to make sure everybody trusts the investigation.” Asked to clarify whether that required Mr. Sessions to step aside, he replied, “I think it’d be easier from that standpoint, yes.”
But Mr. McCarthy later backtracked on “Fox and Friends,” saying, “I’m not calling on him to recuse himself.”
Some Democrats were already going further, suggesting that Mr. Sessions had perjured himself in the confirmation hearing for the attorney general post and demanding that he step down.
“For the good of the country, Attorney General Jeff Sessions should resign,” said the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York.
The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, took the same position, saying, “Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign.”
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter on Thursday to the Justice Department and the F.B.I. asking for “an immediate criminal investigation into these statements, which could potentially implicate a number of criminal laws including lying to Congress and perjury.”
The Trump administration dismissed the accusations as partisan attacks, and Mr. Sessions said in a statement issued shortly before midnight that he had not addressed election matters with the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak.
“I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” Mr. Sessions said. “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
In an appearance on NBC News on Thursday morning, Mr. Sessions reiterated that he had not met with the Russian ambassador to discuss the political campaign, but he left the door open to stepping aside from the investigation. “I have said whenever it’s appropriate, I will recuse myself,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
The clash was the latest escalation in the continuing fallout over what intelligence officials have concluded was Russian interference in the 2016 election to help President Trump, including by hacking Democratic emailsand providing them to WikiLeaks for release.
F.B.I. officials have been scrutinizing contacts between people affiliated with the Trump campaign over communication with the Russian government. And last month, the national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, resigned after it emerged that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about a conversation with Mr. Kislyak.
Now, Mr. Sessions, formerly an Alabama senator, appears to be at risk of becoming caught in that same wave. He was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump and became an architect of his populist campaign strategy who sharpened the candidate’s message on immigration and trade. Mr. Sessions became a trusted adviser and is seen as one of the power centers in the administration.
At the confirmation hearing for attorney general in January, Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, asked Mr. Sessions about a CNN report that intelligence briefers had told Barack Obama, then the president, and Mr. Trump, then the president-elect, that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising information about Mr. Trump.