Questions over Sessions’ testimony

New US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has come under fire over sworn testimony given during his confirmation hearing that appears to deny contact with Russian officials during the election campaign.

Fox News: Sessions, Russian ambassador spoke twice during presidential campaign

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had two conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during last year’s presidential campaign, while Sessions was still a senator.

Reports about the meetings appeared to contradict a statement Sessions made during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general. Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., how he would respond “if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign.”

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” answered Sessions, one of Trump’s earliest and most prominent supporters during the campaign. “I have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”

When contacted by Fox News late Wednesday, Sessions said, “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

But he has at least two meetings with Russian government representatives. He should have at least been open about this.

The disclosure caused renewed calls for Sessions to step aside from an ongoing FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The White House has already acknowledged that Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, misled top officials about the nature of his contacts with Kislyak. Flynn initially told Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump advisers that he did not discuss sanctions with the envoy during the transition, though it was later revealed that he did.

It’s fair to question this lack of frankness.

G W Bush’s ethics lawyer:

Washington Post: Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose

One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. 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. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.

When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, the senator was a senior member of the influential Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. Sessions played a prominent role supporting Trump on the stump after formally joining the campaign in February 2016.

At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

In January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sessions for answers to written questions. “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?” Leahy wrote.

Sessions responded with one word: “No.”

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

Sessions may think that semantics give him a way out of this but it doesn’t look good for him or for the Trump administration.

Full and open disclosure at the hearings would have avoided this. Now it looks like Sessions has been avoiding open disclosure, which raises questions about whether he deliberately tried to hide contact with Russians.

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7 Comments

  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  2nd March 2017

    Well, they might have been discussing the best way to make borscht and where Sessions could buy an amber necklace for his wife, but whatever the talks were about, it was unwise to hold them behind closed doors. And unbelievably unwise to have them at that time !!!

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  2nd March 2017

      And especially unwise if they were going to result in ‘Go Directly to Jail, Do No Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200.’

      Reply
  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  2nd March 2017

    Especially as it was the Ambassador, so that if Sessions had said ‘I only spoke to the Ambassador, not to any politicians as such.’ it could well have been all right. (?)

    Reply
  3. Nelly Smickers

     /  2nd March 2017

    *Chuck* in LA tweets…

    Reply
  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  2nd March 2017

    Sessions attended a Heritage Foundation event in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention that was attended by about 50 ambassadors. When the event was over, a small group of ambassadors approached Sessions as he was leaving the podium, and Kislyak was among them, the Justice Department official said.

    Sessions then spoke individually to some of the ambassadors, including Kislyak, the official said. In the informal exchanges, the ambassadors expressed appreciation for his remarks and some of them invited him to events they were sponsoring, said the official, citing a former Sessions staffer who was at the event. – WaPo link above.

    Oh dear. Sounds a real storm in a teacup, doesn’t it?

    Reply
    • patupaiarehe

       /  2nd March 2017

      Sure does Alan. Most people enjoy a ‘session’, just ask Zedd 😀

      Reply

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