Sessions Met With Russian Ambassador Twice During Campaign

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with Russia’s ambassador to the United States twice before the election while he was a senator and also a surrogate for President Donald Trump’s campaign.

The Washington Post first broke the news and a spokeswoman for Sessions, Sarah Isgur Flores, acknowledged that Sessions did meet with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The attorney general did not disclose his contact with Kislyak during his confirmation hearing in January.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions said in January when asked what he would do if he discovered that Trump aides were in contact with Russian officials during the campaign. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

Sessions also denied a written question asking if he had discussed the 2016 election with any Russian officials during the campaign, the Washington Post noted.

Flores told the Washington Post that Sessions’ answer was not “misleading.”

“He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee,” Flores said.

Sessions also issued a statement, noting that he did not discuss the Trump campaign in his meetings.

“I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” he said in a statement. “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

On Thursday morning, NBC News asked Sessions if he would consider recusing himself from an investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“I have said whenever it’s appropriate, I will recuse myself. There’s no doubt about that,” Sessions replied.

The White House dismissed the reports on Sessions’ contacts with the Russian ambassador as a “partisan” attack pushed by Democrats.

“This is the latest attack against the Trump Administration by partisan Democrats. General Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony. It’s no surprise Senator Al Franken is pushing this story immediately following President Trump’s successful address to the nation,” a White House official said in a statement to TPM.

Sessions met with Kislyak twice during the campaign, once at a Heritage Foundation event during the Republican National Convention in July and a second time in September, according to the Washington Post. Justice Department officials told the Post that Sessions held the September meeting in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The revelation about Sessions’ contact with the Russian ambassador comes as allegations that Trump associates were in contact with Russian officials during the campaign are under increasing scrutiny. Some Democrats have called for an independent investigation, but Republicans have insisted that probes carried out by the intelligence committees are sufficient.

As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which is currently investigating potential contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. Several lawmakers have called for a special prosecutor, and even Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said that Sessions should recuse himself “if there is an allegation of a crime.”

Following the Washington Post’s report Wednesday night, Democrats began to call for Sessions to resign from his role as attorney general. Democrats also reiterated their calls for an independent investigation into any ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Watch the moment from Sessions’ confirmation hearing below:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.
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