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Trump slams 'witch hunt' by Democrats

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Growing calls for US Attorney General to step down over Russia meetings

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Thursday lashed out at Democrats over their demands for US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, calling their actions a "total witch hunt".

Mr Sessions on Thursday announced he would recuse himself from any probe into the presidential election campaign as the White House moved to forestall a snowballing controversy over its ties to Russia.

Following newly-revealed meetings he held with Russia's ambassador before the election, Mr Sessions denied any impropriety or that he lied about those encounters in his Senate confirmation hearing.

The Republican US president declared his "total" confidence in Mr Sessions - while adding that he "wasn't aware" of contacts between Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Mr Sessions, who was a senator actively supporting Trump's campaign at the time.

He defended Mr Sessions again in a statement late on Wednesday, calling him an "honest man" and accusing Democrats of having "lost their grip on reality" and carrying out "a total witch hunt!"

Mr Sessions "did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional".

Unswayed by Mr Sessions's account of events, top Democrats are maintaining their calls for him to step down immediately, accusing him of perjury.

They also called for an independent prosecutor to investigate contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow, which US intelligence says interfered in the election to hurt Mr Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Mr Adam Schiff, a Democratic ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, rejected Mr Sessions's claim that his contacts with Mr Kislyak were unrelated to his work with the Trump campaign as "simply not credible."

"In the midst of a Russian campaign aimed at undermining our election and as a highly visible proxy for candidate Trump, Sessions would have had to be extraordinarily naive or gullible to believe that the ambassador was seeking him out in his office for a discussion on military matters, and Sessions is neither," he said in a statement.

"I have come to the reluctant conclusion that the Attorney General should step down," he said, echoing calls made earlier by the top Democrats in both chambers of the Republican-controlled Congress.

According to officials, US intelligence agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation continue to investigate just how and how much Moscow intruded into US politics, and whether that effort - which US intelligence chiefs say was directed by President Vladimir Putin - involved collusion with the Trump campaign.

Four congressional committees have opened probes into the issue, although Democrats fear that Republicans will seek to bury their investigations to protect Mr Trump's young administration. - AFP

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