Ses­sions de­nies ly­ing to Congress

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - By Matt Apuzzo and Ni­cholas Fan­dos

The at­tor­ney gen­eral says he’d for­got­ten about a dis­cus­sion in which an aide touted his Rus­sian con­nec­tions and sug­gested a meet­ing for Don­ald Trump in Moscow.

WASHINGTON — At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions on Tues­day de­nied, again, ly­ing to Congress about the Trump cam­paign’s ties to Rus­sia. He said he had for­got­ten about a cam­paign round-ta­ble in which an aide touted his Rus­sian con­nec­tions and sug­gested ar­rang­ing a meet­ing for Don­ald Trump in Moscow.

But even as Ses­sions re­mained hazy on the de­tails, he was adamant that he had swiftly re­jected the aide’s sug­ges­tion.

“I have al­ways told the truth,” Ses­sions told the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, adding that he stood by his pre­vi­ous tes­ti­mony be­cause “I had no rec­ol­lec­tion of this meet­ing un­til I saw th­ese news re­ports.”

Ses­sions, a for­mer se­na­tor and an ar­chi­tect of Trump’s poli­cies on trade and im­mi­gra­tion, was sup­posed to be an in­flu­en­tial force in the ad­min­is­tra­tion. In­stead, he has twice amended his sworn tes­ti­mony, cre­at­ing a dis­trac­tion for the White House and re­new­ing ques­tions about whether the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is con­ceal­ing its con­nec­tions with Rus­sia.

A spe­cial coun­sel, Robert Mueller, is in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether any­one close to Trump worked with Rus­sian op­er­a­tives to in­flu­ence last year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

In Oc­to­ber, Ses­sions tes­ti­fied that he knew of no­body in the Trump cam­paign who had con­tacts with Rus­sians. “And I don’t be­lieve it hap­pened,” he said then.

Court doc­u­ments in the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion have since shown that Ses­sions led a round­table dis­cus­sion last year in which a cam­paign aide, Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, dis­cussed his Rus­sian ties and sug­gested set­ting up a meet­ing be­tween Trump and Vladimir Putin, the Rus­sian pres­i­dent.

Ses­sions said he now re­mem­bers the round­table dis­cus­sion and that Pa­padopou­los at­tended, but, he said, “I have no clear rec­ol­lec­tion of the de­tails of what he said.” Ses­sions seemed more cer­tain about his own re­sponse to Pa­padopou­los: “I pushed back against his sug­ges­tion.”

Ses­sions has fallen from fa­vor at the White House, where Trump blames him for Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The pres­i­dent be­lieves that if Ses­sions had not re­cused him­self from the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, there would have been no need for a spe­cial coun­sel. White House of­fi­cials be­lieve Ses­sions’ poor per­for­mances be­fore Congress have only made things worse.

Even as Trump has ac­knowl­edged that he is not sup­posed to in­volve him­self in Jus­tice De­part­ment de­ci­sion mak­ing, he has called for pros­e­cu­tors to in­ves­ti­gate Hil­lary Clin­ton and mem­bers of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Ses­sions ap­peared to have re­ceived the mes­sage. In a Nov. 13 let­ter sent to the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, the Jus­tice De­part­ment said it would ex­am­ine al­le­ga­tions that do­na­tions to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion in­flu­enced a 2010 de­ci­sion to al­low a Rus­sian agency to buy a U.S. com­pany that owned ac­cess to ura­nium in the United States. The let­ter re­gard­ing the ura­nium deal gave a boost to con­ser­va­tives who have been call­ing for a spe­cial coun­sel to in­ves­ti­gate Clin­ton. Democrats re­peat­edly ques­tioned Ses­sions’ in­de­pen­dence and hon­esty. “I don’t want to hear in a few days or a few weeks that your an­swers, Mr. At­tor­ney Gen­eral, have changed,” said Rep. Luis V. Gu­tiér­rez of Illi­nois.

Ses­sions tes­ti­fied a day af­ter the At­lantic mag­a­zine re­vealed that Don­ald Trump Jr., the pres­i­dent’s el­dest son, had ex­changed pri­vate mes­sages on Twit­ter with Wik­iLeaks dur­ing the cam­paign. Wik­iLeaks pub­lished a trove of em­bar­rass­ing Demo­cratic emails that had been stolen by Rus­sian hack­ers.


At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions an­swers ques­tions Tues­day dur­ing the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee hear­ing in Washington, D.C.

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