Politics

Sessions Met With Russia’s Ambassador A Day After Meeting With Ukraine’s

REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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As a senator last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions met separately in his office on two consecutive days with the ambassadors of two nations in conflict: Ukraine and Russia.

But it is Sessions’ meeting with the Russian diplomat, Sergey Kislayk, that is receiving all of the attention following a Washington Post reported that dropped late Wednesday.

The meeting, which occurred on Sept. 8, was Sessions’ second contact with Kislyak during the presidential campaign. In June, he had a discussion with Kislyak and a group of ambassadors during a sideline session hosted by the Heritage Foundation.

What has been lost in the furor over the report is what happened in the days before and after Sessions met with the Russian official.

That visit occurred a day after Sessions met with Valeriy Chaly, Ukraine’s ambassador.

Fox News reported that Sessions’ schedules showed those two meetings and others with nearly 30 ambassadors from various nations between April 14 and Nov. 11.

And those two meetings took place just as Russia and Ukraine were hammering out a ceasefire plan in a conflict between pro-Russia separatists operating in eastern Ukraine.

“These meetings took place a week before a seven-day unilateral ceasefire plan was accepted by Russia on behalf of separatist rebels it backed in the conflict with Ukraine,” Fox News reported.

Sessions meetings with Kislyak — mostly the one in September — have led to two different allegations from Sessions’ critics.

[Update: After this article was published, Sessions recused himself from any investigation into Trump campaign activities involving Russia.]

Some are alleging that the contacts are further evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to influence the general election. Other critics have avoided speculating on the topics discussed in the meetings, and instead have said that Sessions should have disclosed them during his Jan. 10 Senate confirmation hearing.

A faction of critics in that latter camp say that Sessions perjured himself in that hearing during a line of questioning from Minnesota Sen. Al Franken.

But Sessions may have some wiggle room. He cited his position as a Trump “surrogate” and said that he did not meet with anyone affiliated with the Kremlin.

In his questioning, Franken cited a CNN story alleging that documents provided to federal investigators showed that “Trump surrogates and intermediaries” exchanged information with the Russian government.

“If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?” Franken asked.

Sessions responded that he “did not have communications with the Russians.” But his defenders are pointing out that he made that claim within the context of being a surrogate for the Trump campaign.

“Senator Franken, 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, and I’m unable to comment on it,” Sessions told Franken.

Sessions’ spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, said late Wednesday that Sessions met with Kislyak in his capacity as a senator and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, not as a member of the Trump campaign.

Sessions offered up his recollection of the September meeting in a press conference on Thursday in which he announced his recusal from any Trump-related matters.

 

“We talked a little bit about terrorism, as I recall. Somehow the subject of Ukraine came up. I had had the Ukrainian ambassador in my office the day before,” Sessions said.

He added that Kislyak insisted that “Russia had done nothing that was wrong in any area, and everybody else was wrong in regard to Ukraine.”

“It got to be a testy conversation at that point,” said Sessions.

[dcquiz] Sessions recused himself from the investigation even though President Trump said earlier that he did not believe it was necessary.

Trump told reporters on Thursday that he had “total” confidence in Sessions.

Asked whether Sessions should recuse himself, Trump said “I don’t think so,” according to a pool report.

Trump also said he “wasn’t aware at all” that Sessions had talked to Kislyak and that he thinks Sessions “probably did” testify truthfully during his confirmation hearing.

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