Speed Reads

Russia Sessions

Jeff Sessions used campaign funds, not Senate account, when meeting Russian ambassador

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that he did not lie under oath when he volunteered at his Senate confirmation hearing that he had "been called a surrogate a a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians," because during the two or more meetings he had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak while he was the chairman of then-candidate Donald Trump's National Security Advisory Committee, he was acting in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, not as a Trump campaign official. During the first of the two meetings Sessions recalls, however, he was using campaign funds for his travel, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Sessions met Kislyak at a Heritage Foundation event during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and campaign finance records show that he paid for his lodging with funds from his re-election campaign, suggesting he was not in Cleveland on official Senate business. Also, a person at the event tells the Journal that Sessions and Kislyak discussed the Trump campaign at the event, specifically Trump's trade policy, and that Sessions gave the impression he was there as a Trump campaign official.

Sessions spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told WSJ she couldn't comment on his convention expenses and that aides with Sessions at the Cleveland event don't recall him discussing the election with Kislyak, though they couldn't be sure because of the noise level in the room. In a written answer to a question from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in January, Sessions said he had not "been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day."

Larry Nobel, the general counsel at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, said he's not surprised Sessions used campaign funds to attend the convention since, as a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, it would have been hard to justify using Senate funds for a political trip. "If he was truly there solely as a member of the Armed Services Committee, then he could've used his legislative account," he said. There is no record that the Trump campaign reimbursed Sessions for his travel expenses, the Journal says. Sessions said he'll recuse himself from any investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, but rejected calls that he resign.