By: Christina Wong
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday that suggestions he lied at his confirmation hearing about prior meetings he had as a U.S. senator with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak were “false.”
Sessions said that his response to Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was a “fair and correct response” to a “rambling question.”
Here’s the exchange during that January 10, 2017, hearing:
FRANKEN: CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week, that included information that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” These documents also allegedly say “there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” Again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out, so, you know. But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?
SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.
FRANKEN: Very well.
Sessions on Tuesday also pointed out that he had provided a reporter an accounting of his meetings with foreign ambassadors that included the two meetings, and he had provided supplemental testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the meetings.
“Certainly nothing improper occurred,” he said.
The attorney general said he may have had an encounter with Kislyak and other ambassadors at President Trump’s first major foreign policy campaign speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in April 2016 but could not say either way with certainty.
Democrats have criticized Sessions for meeting with Kislyak as a U.S. senator despite themselves doing the exact same thing.
Several of them at first denied doing so, which was then contradicted by information they themselves had put out on social media.
Here are the top examples:
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) tweeted on March 2: “No call or meeting w/Russian Ambassador. Ever.”
However, she tweeted two previous times she was off to meet with or call the Russian ambassador.
She tweeted on January 30, 2013, that she was “off to meeting w/Russian Ambassador.” That meeting resulted in a picture, featuring her sitting at a table with Kislyak.
She also tweeted on August 6, 2015: “Today, calls with British, Russian, and German Ambassadors re: Iran deal. #doingmyhomework.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on March 1, 2017, also denied meeting with Kislyak in an interview with Politico, calling on Sessions to resign. However, a photo from a 2010 meeting with then-Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev showed Kislyak across the table from then-House Speaker Pelosi.
Some Democrats have admitted that meeting with Kislyak was a normal thing.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told CNN on March 2, 2017: “I believe he’s been in my office from time to time.”
Kislyak also appeared at least 22 times on Obama White House visitor logs, between 2009 and 2016.