During Donald Trump's presidential campaign, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then a Republican senator from Alabama, spoke twice with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials told The Washington Post.
The Justice Department told The Associated Press on Wednesday night that Sessions had a conversation with Kislyak in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and also met with him and other ambassadors after a speech at the Heritage Foundation. When asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) during his confirmation hearing Jan. 10 what he would do if he discovered evidence anyone tied to Trump's campaign communicated with the Russian government before the 2016 presidential election, Sessions said, "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."
A spokeswoman for Sessions, who served as one of Trump's top foreign policy advisers during the campaign, told the Post there was "absolutely nothing misleading about his answer," because he was "asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee." The Post contacted the 26 members of the 2016 Armed Services Committee and asked if they met with Kislyak last year; 19 responded, with all of them, including chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), saying no. One staffer said "members of the committee have not been beating a path to Kislyak's door," given the strained relations between the U.S. and Russia.
As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, and both are investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election and possible links between Russia and Trump associates. Franken told the Post that if it's "true that Attorney General Sessions met with the Russian ambassador in the midst of the campaign, then I am very troubled that his response to my questioning during his confirmation hearing was, at best, misleading. It is now clearer than ever that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russian connection, and he must recuse himself immediately." Read more at The Washington Post.