Tags: Russia | Jeff Sessions | confirmation | hearing | attorney general

WashPost: AG Sessions Had Prior Russian Contact, Despite Confirmation Hearing Denials

Image: WashPost: AG Sessions Had Prior Russian Contact, Despite Confirmation Hearing Denials

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Wednesday, 01 Mar 2017 10:20 PM

Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke twice with Russia's ambassador to the United States last year, but denied "communications with Russians" during his confirmation hearing, The Washington Post reported.

At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., what he would do if he learned of any evidence anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government during the campaign, the Post reported.

"I’m not aware of any of those activities," Sessions answered, the Post reported, adding: "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians."

The Post also reported Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Sessions for answers to written questions – including one that asked: "Several of the President-elect's nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?"

Sessions responded "No," the Post reported.

But according to the Post, then-Sen. Sessions, R-Ala., met last Sept. 8 with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak amid what intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the presidential race.

He also met with Kislyak last July, the Post reported.

Officials told the Post that Sessions did not consider the conversations relevant to the lawmakers' questions at the confirmation hearing – and he did not remember in detail what they talked about.

"There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer," said Sarah Isgur Flores, Sessions' spokeswoman.

Justice officials said Sessions met with Kislyak in September in his capacity as a member of the armed services panel rather than in his role as a Trump campaign surrogate.

As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump's associates, but has resisted calls to recuse himself, the Post reported.

In a statement reacting to the Post's report, Franken said, "If it's true that Attorney General Sessions met with the Russian ambassador in the midst of the campaign, then I am very troubled that his response to my questioning during his confirmation hearing was, at best, misleading."

"It is now clearer than ever that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately," he told the Post.

Separately, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CNN on Wednesday night there should be a special prosecutor of possible ties between Trump associates and Russians if evidence proves that to be the case.

"If there is something there, and it goes up the chain, it's clear that Jeff Sessions, who is a clear friend of mine, cannot make that decision," he said.

And, he added, if Sessions spoke with a Russian diplomat, "then for sure you need a special prosecutor."

Last month, the Post reported Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions with Kislyak during the month before Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Vice President-elect Mike Pence and other top Trump officials. Flynn was then asked to resign.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke twice with Russia's ambassador to the United States last year, but denied "communications with Russians" during his confirmation hearing, The Washington Post reported.
Jeff Sessions, confirmation, hearing, attorney general
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2017-20-01
Wednesday, 01 Mar 2017 10:20 PM
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