Ses­sions de­fends him­self

At­tor­ney Gen­eral de­nies ly­ing on Rus­sia, pleads hazy mem­ory

Journal Pioneer - - WORLD - BY ERIC TUCKER AND SADIE GURMAN

A de­fi­ant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions told Congress on Tues­day he never lied un­der oath about Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion and said sleep de­pri­va­tion and the “chaos” of the Trump cam­paign clouded his rec­ol­lec­tions of cam­paign con­tacts with Rus­sians.

Ses­sions sought to ex­plain away ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tions in his pub­lic state­ments by por­tray­ing U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign as an ex­haust­ing op­er­a­tion and said he could not be ex­pected to re­mem­ber spe­cific en­coun­ters from more than a year ago.

“In all of my tes­ti­mony, I can only do my best to an­swer all of your ques­tions as I un­der­stand them and to the best of my mem­ory,” Ses­sions told the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. “But I will not ac­cept, and re­ject, ac­cu­sa­tions that I have ever lied un­der oath. That is a lie.”

Ses­sions, then a sen­a­tor from Alabama, led a for­eign pol­icy ad­vi­sory coun­cil for the Trump cam­paign. He has been dogged since Jan­uary by his evolv­ing ex­pla­na­tions about his own for­eign con­tacts dur­ing the cam­paign and about how much he knew of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween Trump as­so­ciates and Rus­sian gov­ern­ment in­ter­me­di­aries.

Those ques­tions have only deep­ened since the guilty plea last month of Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, a for­mer Trump ad­viser who served on the coun­cil Ses­sions chaired and who pro­posed ar­rang­ing a meet­ing be­tween Trump and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. As well, an­other aide, Carter Page, told Congress in pri­vate state­ments that he had alerted Ses­sions about a meet­ing he planned in Rus­sia dur­ing the cam­paign.

Ses­sions said he had no rec­ol­lec­tion of the con­ver­sa­tion with Page. And he said that though he did not ini­tially re­call a March 2016 con­ver­sa­tion with Pa­padopou­los, he now be­lieves af­ter see­ing me­dia re­ports about it that he told Pa­padopou­los that he was not au­tho­rized to rep­re­sent the Trump cam­paign with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment or any other for­eign gov­ern­ment. Pa­padopou­los was ar­rested by the FBI and pleaded guilty to ly­ing to au­thor­i­ties about his own for­eign con­tacts dur­ing the cam­paign.

“I pushed back, I’ll just say it that way,” Ses­sions said un­der ques­tion­ing, later adding that he was con­cerned that “he not go off some­where pre­tend­ing to rep­re­sent the Trump cam­paign.”

Ses­sions in­sisted that his story had never changed and that he had never been dis­hon­est. But he also sug­gested to the com­mit­tee that it was un­fair to ex­pect him to re­call “who said what when” dur­ing the cam­paign.

“It was a brilliant cam­paign in many ways,” he said. “But it was a form of chaos ev­ery day from Day 1. We trav­elled all the time, some­times to sev­eral places in one day. Sleep was in short sup­ply. And I was still a full-time sen­a­tor keep­ing a very full sched­ule dur­ing this time.” The over­sight hear­ing came one day af­ter the Jus­tice Depart­ment said Ses­sions had di­rected fed­eral prose­cu­tors to look into whether a special coun­sel might be mer­ited to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions that the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion ben­e­fited from an Obama-era ura­nium trans­ac­tion in­volv­ing a Rus­si­abacked com­pany.

On Tues­day, Ses­sions said that any such re­view would be done with­out re­gard to po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions.

AP PHOTO

U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions speaks dur­ing a House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hear­ing Tues­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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