in pleading guilty to lying to FBI agents, has admitted that he told Trump and other campaign officials, including Sessions, that he had contacts who could help arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin.
“I do now recall the March 2016 meeting at Trump hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting,” Sessions said. “After reading his account, and to the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government, or any other foreign government, for that matter. But I did not recall this event, which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago, and I would gladly have reported it had I remembered it because I pushed back against his suggestion that I thought may have been improper.”
Sessions clarified later that he recalled Papadopoulos making “some comment” about a TrumpPutin meeting, and he “pushed back.”
Also at Tuesday’s hearing, Sessions said the Justice Department would need a “factual basis” to appoint a second special counsel to investigate a host of GOP concerns — and he rejected the suggestion by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, that such a basis already existed.
Republicans have pressed Sessions to launch probes on a variety of matters — including alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the sale of a uranium company to Russia — and on Monday, the Justice Department sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., saying that Sessions had directed senior federal prosecutors to explore at least some of them. They were to report back to him and his top deputy on whether any necessitated the appointment of a second special counsel.
“What’s it gonna take to get a special counsel?” Jordan asked on Tuesday. Near the end of a testy exchange, Sessions said, “‘Looks like’ is not enough basis to appoint a special counsel.”
Sessions said he would appoint a special counsel if the circumstances called for it and reject the idea if not.
Rep. John Conyers, D- Mich., sought to highlight that Trump has publicly pressed the Justice Department to investigate Clinton- related matters, noting, “What strikes me about these comments is the president’s view that the criminal justice system serves him, and not the public.”
Sessions, though, said, “I have not been improperly influenced and would not be improperly influenced.”
In recent weeks, unsealed court documents have called into question the attorney general’s previous testimony about his interactions with Russians and his knowledge of others’ interactions.
At his confirmation hearing to be attorney general, Sessions said he “did not have communications with the Russians” during the campaign. When The Washington Post later revealed he had twice spoken with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, he revised his account, saying he had no meetings with Russians “to discuss issues of the campaign.”
The Post later reported that Russia’s U. S. ambassador told his superiors that he and Sessions discussed campaign- related matters. And at an October appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions seemed to shift his position again. That time, he said he conducted no “improper discussions with Russians at any time regarding a campaign or any other item facing this country,” although he acknowledged it was possible in one of his conversations that “some comment was made about what Trump’s positions were.”
Trump campaign adviser Carter Page also testified before the House Intelligence Committee recently that he told Sessions of his plans to travel to Moscow. Page has said the interaction was brief and forgettable and that his trip was unconnected to his campaign work. Sessions said he didn’t recall the conversation but was “not able to dispute it.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is interested in Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department investigating various matters relating to former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.