Reports: Comey Told Senators Sessions May Have Had Third Russian Meeting

Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, before his Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearing. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Andrew Harnik/AP

Fired FBI Director James Comey told senators about a possible third meeting between then-Sen. Jeff Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 presidential campaign.

CNN, citing people familiar with the matter, and NBC News, citing an unnamed source familiar with the matter, reported that Comey told senators about the potential of a third meeting in a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday.

After revelations that Sessions met twice with Kislyak without acknowledging it during sworn testimony, Sessions recused himself from matters relating to the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the election. (Trump reportedly still rages at the decision.)

In a subsequent letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee — to whom he initially said he had not met with any Russians — Sessions listed two meetings with Kislyak.

The third meeting, according to NBC News, may have taken place during a small VIP gathering in the Mayflower Hotel on April 27, 2016, before Trump delivered his first major foreign policy address at the same venue.

Both outlets reported that the Justice Department on Thursday denied the meeting ever took place.

CNN, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the matter, reported that the information originated in intercepted calls between Russians discussing the meeting. The outlet cautioned that Kislyak could have exaggerated the encounter.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told NBC News: “Jeff could add a lot of light to it as to why he recused himself.” He added: “There’s one meeting we don’t (know about) and people would like to know about it.”

On June 1, CNN first reported that congressional investigators were looking into a potential third meeting between Sessions and Kislyak. A week earlier, the network reported that Sessions left any meetings with the ambassador off of his security clearance application.

A day later, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who sits on the Judiciary Committee, and whose question in committee initially led Sessions to make his initial false statement about meetings with Russian officials, noted that he and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) had asked the FBI about the potential meeting.

“It had been described in a way that he could plausibly say ‘I don’t remember that.’ But what’s coming out today I believe is that that may not be the case. And if this the true, that would be extremely disturbing,” Franken said of the Mayflower gathering.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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