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Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed issues related to the Trump campaign with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, during the 2016 election, current and former US officials told The Washington Post on Friday.
The officials’ assessment was based on communications between Kislyak and Moscow that were intercepted by US spy agencies.
Since it emerged in March that Sessions, a prominent Trump campaign surrogate, had failed to disclose his contacts with the Russian ambassador, he consistently said he did not discuss anything related to the Trump campaign with Kislyak, and that all their conversations took place within the scope of his duties as a US senator.
One US official told The Post Sessions’ statements were “misleading” and “contradicted by other evidence.”
Another official said the intercepted communications between Kislyak and the Kremlin, in which he spoke of two conversations he had with Sessions, indicate that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” conversations about the Trump campaign’s platform on matters related to Russia, and how the Trump administration would approach the crumbling US-Russia relationship.
US Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores responded to The Post’s report in a statement Friday evening:
“Obviously, I cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that the Washington Post has not seen and that has not been provided to me, but the Attorney General stands by his testimony from just last month before the Senate Intelligence Committee when he specifically addressed this and said that he ‘never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election.'”
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The Post’s report contradicts previous statements Sessions has made, at times while under oath.
When he was asked whether he communicated with the Russian government at his January confirmation hearing, Sessions said he was “not aware of any of those activities.”
He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have – did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”
After it emerged in March that Sessions had, in fact, had at least two conversations with Kislyak during the campaign, he was forced to recuse himself from any current or future Department of Justice investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Sessions said when he announced his recusal in March.
And when he was asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee in June about his conversations with the Russians, Sessions narrowed his answer and said he had “never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”
The Post’s report comes amid a tumultuous time between Sessions and President Donald Trump.
Trump told The New York Times on Tuesday that he never would have appointed Sessions as attorney general if he’d known Sessions would recuse himself.
“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump said.
Sessions said after excerpts of the interview were published that he would remain in his position as long as it were appropriate.