Report: Despite Sworn Claim, Sessions Didn’t Oppose Russia Meeting, Sources Say

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 14:  U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee November 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Sessions is expected to face questions from lawmakers again on whether he had contacts with Russians during the presidential campaign last year.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee under oath in November that he “pushed back” on a 2016 proposal from George Papadopoulos, then a foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign, that members of the campaign meet with Russians.

According to three unnamed meeting attendees who spoke to Reuters, however, that sworn statement was inaccurate.

The sources — whom Reuters described as “[t]hree people who attended the March campaign meeting” and subsequently “gave their version of events to FBI agents or congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 election” — said, in Reuters’ words, that “Sessions had expressed no objections to Papadopoulos’ idea.”

One unnamed source recalled Sessions’ response to Papadopoulos‘ proposal as “something to the effect of ‘okay, interesting,'” Reuters said, while another said Sessions’ response “was almost like, ‘Well, thank you and let’s move on to the next person.'” The third source had a similar account, Reuters said.

The outlet noted that one named source who attended the meeting, J.D. Gordon, the Trump campaign’s director of national security, stood by a November statement in which he said Sessions had strongly opposed the idea.

Sessions’ Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores declined to comment, Reuters said.

Sessions’ first misrepresentation to Congress ultimately resulted in the appointment of Robert Mueller as a special counsel in charge of an independent Russia investigation.

In March of last year, Sessions recused himself from matters relating to the 2016 presidential election and Russia following revelations that, counter to his earlier testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, he’d met twice prior to the election with Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, under whose supervision campaign- and Russia-related matters fell after Sessions’ recusal, appointed Mueller as special counsel in May.

The New York Times first reported in January that Mueller had interviewed Sessions for several hours earlier that month. 

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