Attorney General Jeff Sessions has bowed to pressure and removed himself from an FBI inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the US election.
America’s top prosecutor said he did not lie when he testified at a January confirmation hearing that he had “no communications with the Russians”.
But Democrats are demanding he resign after it emerged he met Moscow’s envoy during last year’s White House race.
Claims of Kremlin interference have dogged President Donald Trump.
“I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States,” Mr Sessions said in a statement.
In a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington DC, he said his comments at his confirmation hearing were “honest and correct as I understood it at the time”.
What’s Mr Sessions accused of?
During the Senate hearing on 10 January, Mr Sessions was asked: “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government, in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”
Mr Sessions responded: “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians. And I’m unable to comment on it.”
However, it has emerged Mr Sessions and Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak, held a private conversation in Mr Sessions’ office in September and spoke at a meeting with several other envoys, on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention in July.
The former Alabama senator had meetings with more than 25 foreign ambassadors in the course of the year.
His meetings with Mr Kislyak came while he played a prominent part of Mr Trump’s campaign team – the so-called surrogate – and amid growing reports of Russian meddling in the US election.
Mr Kislyak is the ambassador who was at the centre of the downfall of Mr Trump’s National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn.
Mr Flynn was fired last month after he misled the White House about his conversations with the Moscow diplomat, allegedly regarding US sanctions.