Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke and met with a Russian envoy, including the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign.
According to a report by the Washington Post citing Justice Department officials, one of the contacts was a private meeting between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in Sessions’s office in September, during a time when U.S. intelligence officials say was the height of a cyber campaign by Russia to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.
Sessions spoke with Kislyak at least one other time in July of 2016, when the then-senator was a senior member of the Armed Services Committee of the Senate and one of Donald Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. He formally joined the Trump campaign in February 2016.
The former Alabama Senator did not disclose the encounters when he was asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Russia during his confirmation hearing to become U.S. Attorney General.
At his Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken asked Sessions what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with Trump’s campaign had communicated with the Russian government during the 2016 election campaign.
“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions answered, adding “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
A spokesperson for Sessions said that Sessions was acting in his official capacity as a member of the Armed Services Committee, not as a member of the Trump campaign, when he spoke with Russia’s ambassador. “There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, the spokesperson.
Additionally, in January, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy asked in written questions submitted to Sessions, “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?”
Sessions answered: “No.”
Flores drew upon that distinction, saying “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.”
When reached by The Post on Wednesday, Senator Franken issued a statement on the matter. “if it’s true that Attorney General Sessions met with the Russian ambassador in the midst of the campaign, then I am very troubled that his response to my questioning during his confirmation hearing was, at best, misleading.”
Franken added: “It is now clearer than ever that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately.”