Sessions: ‘I’ve always told the truth’ about campaign, Russia
Attorney general hazy on details of talks with staffers
WASHINGTON – Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended himself fiercely Tuesday from any suggestion that he has lied in his testimony before Congress about his knowledge of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
“I will not accept — and reject — accusations that I have ever lied,” Sessions testified under oath before the House Judiciary Committee. “That is a lie.”
Sessions added: “I have at all times conducted myself honorably ... I’ve always told the truth.”
Sessions’ testimony was his first appearance before Congress since two former Trump campaign advisers testified that they told Sessions about their contacts with Russia. Those revelations — from former advisers George Papadopoulos and Carter Page — appeared to contradict previous testimony that Sessions gave to the Senate.
Sessions said Tuesday that he did not recall talking to Page last year about Page’s planned trip to Moscow and remembered a March 2016 meeting with Papadopoulos only after seeing news reports about it. He said he made it clear to Papadopoulos that his suggestion that he arrange a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian officials “may have been improper.”
On Oct. 18, Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had no knowledge of any contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Russians with ties to the Kremlin.
“I did not, and I’m not aware of anyone else that did,” Sessions told the panel. “I don’t believe that happened.”
However, Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading a criminal investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, later unsealed documents revealing that Papadopoulos admitted to the FBI he attended a national security meeting in March 2016 with then-candidate Trump, Sessions and other advisers.
At that meeting, which Sessions chaired, Papadopoulos told the group he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. No such meeting ever took place, Trump campaign officials have said.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to making false statements and “material omissions” to the FBI about numerous communications he had with allies of the Russian government, according to a court document unsealed by Mueller.
“I had no recollection of this meeting with Mr. Papadopoulos until I saw news reports,” Sessions said Tuesday. “I do now recall the meeting at Trump Tower.”
Sessions said he could not recall what Papadopoulos said. However, Sessions said he “believes I made clear to him” that he should not represent the campaign to the Russians or anyone else.
“I pushed back against his suggestion (of arranging a meeting between Trump and Russian officials) that I thought may have been improper,” Sessions said.
The attorney general said it’s difficult for him to recall details from a year ago in part because the Trump campaign was so chaotic.
“It was a brilliant campaign in many ways, but it was a form of chaos in many ways from Day One,” Sessions testified, noting that he was still doing his job as a senator while advising the campaign.
Democrats in both the House and Senate say they are troubled by inconsistencies between what Sessions has told them and the testimony of Page and Papadopoulos, even though that testimony does not prove that Sessions was involved in any collusion with Russians.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee hearing he has never lied in congressional testimony about Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential campaign.