Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos on Friday claimed that then-Senator Jeff Sessions “appeared to like” the idea of then-candidate Donald Trump meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The claim contradicted Sessions’ testimony to Congress last November, when he told the House Committee on the Judiciary that he “pushed back” against the suggestion.
“While some in the room rebuffed George’s offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it,” wrote Papadopoulos’ attorneys in a Friday court filing, according to CNN. “George’s giddiness over Mr. Trump’s recognition was prominent during the days that followed.”
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper set to air Friday night, Papadopoulos said Trump “gave me sort of a nod” and “wasn’t committed either way,” but the then-Alabama senator “was actually enthusiastic about a meeting between the candidate and President Putin.”
“My recollection was that the senator was actually enthusiastic about a meeting between the candidate and President Putin,” Papadopoulos said. “I remember him being enthusiastic about a potential meeting between the candidate and President Putin after I raised the question.”
Papadopoulos proposed the meeting to Trump and his foreign policy team in March 2016 as a “photo-op” between the two leaders. (RELATED: Trump Adviser Proposed Meeting Russians During Campaign, But Sessions Shot It Down)
“I sat down and, you know, I looked at the candidate,” said Papadopoulos. “I looked at candidate Trump directly in his eyes and said, ‘I can do this for you if it’s in your interest and if it’s in the campaign’s interest.’ And the collective energy in the room, of course, there were some dissenters, but the collective energy in the room seem to be interested.”
The claim, initially made in a court filing last week as a part of a request to the judge for a lenient sentence, collaborates the contentions of three anonymous sources who told Reuters in March that Sessions did not object to Papadopoulos’ suggestion.
But in April, the House Intelligence Committee released a report citing two witnesses who backed up Sessions’ account:
Sessions’ account of his response has been corroborated by another attendee, [redacted]. [Redacted] also attended and similarly recalled that when Papadopoulos raised the issue of obtaining contacts with the Russian government on behalf of the campaign, Senator Sessions interrupted and began “talking about the Logan Act,” which criminalizes unauthorized negotiations with foreign governments.
Papadopoulos was sentenced on Friday to 14 days in prison, 200 hours of community service, and a $9,500 fine for lying to the FBI.