Ses­sions knew Rus­sia pur­sued mem­bers of Trump cam­paign.

Democrats say AG con­tin­ues to change his story

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREA NOBLE

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions ac­knowl­edged Tues­day he was aware that Rus­sian of­fi­cials had tried to reach out to mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign but said he didn’t lie or com­mit per­jury by not dis­clos­ing those at­tempts in pre­vi­ous tes­ti­mony to Congress.

Dur­ing a five-hour grilling be­fore the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, Mr. Ses­sions also bat­ted back ac­cu­sa­tions that he suc­cumbed to po­lit­i­cal pres­sure by ask­ing fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors to re­view a past FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sia’s pur­chase of ura­nium rights and con­nec­tions to then-Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Mr. Ses­sions told law­mak­ers he had for­got­ten at­tend­ing a March 2016 Trump cam­paign meet­ing in which for­eign pol­icy ad­viser Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los had said he could help ar­range a meet­ing be­tween the cam­paign and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. Mr. Ses­sions said he “had no rec­ol­lec­tion” of the meet­ing un­til it hit the news as part of a guilty plea Pa­padopou­los en­tered last month.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral, who was a top na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser to the cam­paign, said he “pushed back” against Pa­padopou­los’ sug­ges­tion for a meet­ing, but he did not re­call the re­ac­tions of oth­ers who at­tended the meet­ing — in­clud­ing Mr. Trump.

“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,” Mr. Ses­sions said, later adding that he was con­cerned Pa­padopou­los would go around “pre­tend­ing to rep­re­sent the Trump cam­paign.”

Democrats said the at­tor­ney gen­eral keeps chang­ing his story when it comes to Rus­sian con­tacts with the cam­paign.

“You tes­ti­fied un­der oath be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee in Jan­uary, you sub­se­quently cor­rected that tes­ti­mony in a March 6 writ­ten sub­mis­sion and have been forced re­peat­edly to come back to the Se­nate and now the House to clar­ify,” said Rep. Ha­keem S. Jef­fries, New York Demo­crat.

Mr. Jef­fries noted that, as a se­na­tor, Mr. Ses­sions voted in fa­vor of re­mov­ing then-Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton from of­fice af­ter he was im­peached on per­jury charges and spoke about pros­e­cut­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer who had lied in a de­po­si­tion

“If he cares about the val­ues and the peo­ple he claims to care about, then he should step aside.”

— House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, on Repub­li­can Se­nate can­di­date Roy Moore

but later cor­rected his tes­ti­mony.

“Mr. Jef­fries, no­body, not you or any­one else, should be pros­e­cuted, not me, or ac­cused of per­jury for an­swer­ing the ques­tions the way I did in this hear­ing,” Mr. Ses­sions said. “I’ve al­ways tried to an­swer the ques­tions ac­cu­rately.”

Mr. Ses­sions also de­fended his han­dling of a June 2016 trip that for­mer Trump cam­paign for­eign pol­icy ad­viser Carter Page planned to take to Rus­sia. Mr. Page has told Congress the trip was not re­lated to the cam­paign and that he told Mr. Ses­sions about it in pass­ing over din­ner.

“No, I didn’t tell him not to go to Rus­sia,” Mr. Ses­sions said Tues­day. “Am I sup­posed to stop him from tak­ing a trip?”

Democrats pressed Mr. Ses­sions over the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s an­nounce­ment that pros­e­cu­tors have been tasked with re­view­ing the de­part­ment’s han­dling of mat­ters in­volv­ing Mrs. Clin­ton.

Rep. John Cony­ers Jr., Michi­gan Demo­crat, dis­played a se­ries of re­cent tweets from the pres­i­dent de­mand­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s 2010 pur­chase of ura­nium rights and do­na­tions to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion while Mrs. Clin­ton led the State De­part­ment.

Repub­li­cans have ques­tioned the deal, which was ap­proved dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and gave Rus­sian com­pa­nies con­trol of about 20 per­cent of U.S. ura­nium de­posits.

The deal was ap­proved by the Com­mit­tee on For­eign In­vest­ment in the U.S., which is made up of nine top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials — in­clud­ing Mrs. Clin­ton at the time.

“I have not been im­prop­erly in­flu­enced and would not be im­prop­erly in­flu­enced,” Mr. Ses­sions said. “The pres­i­dent speaks his mind. He is bold and di­rect about what he says. We do our duty every day based on the facts.”

Mr. Ses­sions de­clined to say whether he is re­cused from in­ves­ti­ga­tions that in­volve Mrs. Clin­ton, say­ing it might re­veal the ex­is­tence of such a probe.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral pre­vi­ously re­cused him­self from mat­ters re­lated to the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. That left re­spon­si­bil­ity for those mat­ters with Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein, who ap­pointed Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller to take over the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion.

Repub­li­cans wanted to know why Mr. Ses­sions hasn’t yet ap­pointed a spe­cial coun­sel to probe the ura­nium deal and also to look into for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James B. Comey’s han­dling of the Clin­ton email in­ves­ti­ga­tion last year.

“What’s it go­ing to take to get a spe­cial coun­sel?” Rep. Jim Jor­dan said, while try­ing to get Mr. Ses­sions to di­vulge in­for­ma­tion about how an anti-Trump dossier was used by the FBI or whether its au­thor was paid by the U.S. gov­ern­ment.

“It sure looks like the FBI was pay­ing the au­thor of that doc­u­ment, and it sure looks like a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal party was work­ing with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to turn an op­po­si­tion re­search doc­u­ment … into an in­tel­li­gence doc­u­ment. To take that to the FISA court … so that they can get a war­rant to spy on Amer­i­cans associated with Pres­i­dent Trump’s cam­paign, that’s what it looks like,” said Mr. Jor­dan, Ohio Repub­li­can.

Mr. Ses­sions re­sponded that his de­part­ment had to study the facts and de­cide if they war­ranted a spe­cial coun­sel.

“I would say ‘looks like’ is not enough ba­sis to ap­point a spe­cial coun­sel,” Mr. Ses­sions re­sponded.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions ad­mit­ted Tues­day that he knew of Rus­sian of­fi­cials’ at­tempts to reach out to the Trump cam­paign, but says that he did not in fact per­jure him­self de­spite ear­lier fail­ing to dis­close to Congress that he was aware of such ef­forts.

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