- Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters
Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared to waver when asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday if he met privately with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during an event at the Mayflower Hotel last year.
“I guess I could say I possibly did have a meeting, but I still do not recall it,” Sessions said.
“I didn’t have any meeting with him, I’m certain of that,” Sessions said later, before adding that he “may have had an encounter during the reception.”
In his opening statement, however, Sessions had been more assertive in denying any meetings or conversations.
“I did not have any private meetings nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel,” he said.
“I did not attend any meetings at that event … if any brief interaction occurred in passing with the Russian ambassador during that reception, I do not remember it,” he added.
Sessions, a top Trump campaign surrogate, recused himself from the FBI’s Russia investigation in March, a day after The Washington Post reported that he had had at least two undisclosed meetings with Kislyak during the election – once during the Republican National Convention and again in his office in September.
Sessions told the Committee on Tuesday that he acknowledged those two meetings after a reporter asked him about them in March, and that he would have disclosed a third meeting with Kislyak at the Mayflower if there had been one.
Former FBI Director James Comey told senators in a closed-door briefing last week, however, that US intelligence officials had picked up conversations between Kislyak and other Russian officials discussing their meeting with Kislyak at the Mayflower last April.
Comey had testified in an earlier public hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he did not apprise Sessions of the details of his February 14 meeting with Trump – during which he asked if the FBI would consider dropping the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to Comey – because he was sure Sessions was going to recuse himself from the probe imminently.
“We were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an opening setting that would make [Sessions’] continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic,” Comey said.