Attorney General Jeff Sessions denied on Thursday that he misled the Senate Judiciary Committee when he said during confirmation hearings that he did not have any contact with Russia during the campaign.
“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign, and the idea that I was part of a ‘continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government’ is totally false,” Sessions told reporters at a press conference.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that Sessions met twice with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the campaign.
Sessions was referring to a CNN report at the time that the intelligence community had presented President Donald Trump with documents that alleged in part “a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government,” according to the network
Sessions said that didn’t describe his contact with the Russian ambassador.
“That is the question that Sen. Franken asked me at the hearing, and that’s what got my attention, as he noted it was the first, just breaking news,” Sessions said. “And it got my attention, and that is the question I responded to. I did not respond by referring to the two meetings, one very brief after a speech, and one with two of my senior staffers, professional staffers, with the Russian ambassador in Washington, where no such things were discussed.”
“My reply to the question of Sen. Franken was honest and correct as I understood it at the time,” he said.
Franken had quoted from the report in his question to Sessions during the hearing and then asked: “[I]f it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and 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?”
Sessions said he would write to the committee to further explain.
At the end of the press conference, Sessions added: “That’s what I focused my answer on,” referring to the CNN report. “In retrospect, I should have slowed down and said, ‘But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times.'”
This post has been updated.