Sessions denies lying to Congress
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.