Noted white supremacist and current United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions said under oath at his confirmation hearing that he'd had no contact with Russia during Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. That wasn't true, according to the Department of Justice.
Not only did he have contact with Russia's ambassador during the campaign, which he explicitly said he hadn't, but the communication took place in September, during the height of all the alarm over Russia hacking DNC targets. During that feverish time, Sessions had a private meeting, face to face, in his office, with Russia's ambassador to the United States. A few months later he was asked at his confirmation hearing if he'd had any contacts with Russia during the campaign. He said no.
He was lying.
From the Washington Post:
Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.
One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.
The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.
When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, the senator was a senior member of the influential Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. Sessions played a prominent role supporting Trump on the stump after formally joining the campaign in February 2016.
At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.
“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
Sessions reportedly “did not consider the conversations relevant” to lawmakers’ questions, and could not recall in detail what he may have discussed with Ambassador Kislyak.
“There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, Sessions’s spokeswoman.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has been leading the investigation, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The White House directed requests for comment to the Justice Department.
In reaction to the report, Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, also called for Sessions' resignation.
"There is no longer any question that we need a truly independent commission" to investigate potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Cummings said. "It is inconceivable that even after Michael Flynn was fired for concealing his conversations with the Russians that Attorney General Sessions would keep his own conversations for several weeks."
Cummings called Sessions' claim during his confirmation hearing that he did not have communications with the Russians "demonstrably false."
Minnesota Democrat Sen. Al Franken, who asked Sessions about Russia at the confirmation hearing, said if the reports of Sessions' contacts with Kislyak were true then Sessions' response was "at best misleading."
"It's clearer than ever now that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately," Franken said.
More reaction from reporters on Twitter, below.