Ses­sions: ‘I’ve al­ways told the truth’ about cam­paign, Rus­sia

At­tor­ney gen­eral hazy on de­tails of talks with staffers

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - MILWAUKEE WISCONSIN - Erin Kelly USA TODAY

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.

ALEX BRANDON/AP

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.

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