There is breaking news by the Washington Post. It seems that the former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions had conducted at least two discussions with the same U.S. Russian Ambassador that the former National Security Advisor was forced to resign over; and Mr. Sessions never disclosed this information prior to his becoming the new U.S. attorney general.
This discovery makes it virtually impossible for the Attorney General Jeff Sessions to not recuse himself from any investigations into ties between the president’s administration and Russia.
According to CNN’s reporter Evan Perez, the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak is considered by the Intelligence Community to be Russia’s number one spy on U.S. soil.
As per a 3/1/17 WSJ report, “U.S. investigators have examined contacts Attorney General Jeff Sessions had with Russian officials during the time he was advising Donald Trump’s presidential campaign but the outcome of the inquiry, and whether it is ongoing, wasn’t clear.”
As per a 3/1/17 NY Times article, it has been disclosed that some folks with security clearances within President Obama’s administration made sure that intelligence data regarding Russia’s meddling into U.S. elections was preserved and distributed as appropriate among a number of government institutions. “At the Obama White House, Mr. Trump’s statements stoked fears among some that intelligence could be covered up or destroyed — or its sources exposed — once power changed hands. What followed was a push to preserve the intelligence that underscored the deep anxiety with which the White House and American intelligence agencies had come to view the threat from Moscow.”
Mr. Adam Entous of the Washington Post during a 3/1/17 TV interview mentioned that the attorney general had denied any conversations with Russian officials in his written reply to specific questioning along these lines by Senator Patrick Leahy.
The rest of the story…
On 3/1/17 Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller of the Washington Post penned the following article, “Sessions spoke twice with Russian ambassador during Trump’s presidential campaign, Justice officials say.”
“Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.”
“One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign.”
“The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and links to Trump’s associates.”
“When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, the senator was a senior member of the influential Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. Sessions played a prominent role supporting Trump on the stump after formally joining the campaign in February 2016.”
“At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.”
“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
“Officials said Sessions did not consider the conversations relevant to the lawmakers’ questions and did not remember in detail what he discussed with Kislyak.”
“Justice officials said Sessions met with Kislyak on Sept. 8 in his capacity as a member of the armed services panel rather than in his role as a Trump campaign surrogate.”
“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,” Flores said.”
“She added that Sessions last year had more than 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian and German ambassadors, in addition to Kislyak.”
“The Russian ambassador did not respond to requests for comment.”
“The Washington Post contacted all 26 members of the 2016 Senate Armed Services Committee to see if any lawmakers besides Sessions met with Kislyak in 2016. Of the 19 lawmakers who responded, every senator, including chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), said they did not meet with the Russian ambassador last year. The other lawmakers on the panel did not respond as of Wednesday (3/1/17) evening.”
“Members of the committee have not been beating a path to Kislyak’s door,” a senior Senate Armed Services Committee staffer said, citing tensions in relations with Moscow.”
“When asked to comment on Sessions’s contacts with Kislyak, Franken said in a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday: “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 misleading.”
“Franken added: “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-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately.”
“Current and former U.S. officials say they see Kislyak as a diplomat, not an intelligence operative. But they were not sure to what extent, Kislyak was aware of or involved in the covert Russian election campaign.”
“Steven Hall, former head of Russia operations at the CIA, said that Russia would have been interested in cultivating a relationship with Sessions because of his role on key congressional committees and as an early adviser to Trump.”
“Sessions’s membership on the Armed Services Committee would have made him a priority for the Russian ambassador. “The fact that he had already placed himself at least ideologically behind Trump would have been an added bonus for Kislyak,” Hall said.”
“Michael McFaul, a Stanford University professor who until 2014 served as U.S. ambassador to Russia, said he was not surprised that Kislyak would seek a meeting with Sessions. “The weird part is to conceal it,” he said. “That was at the height of all the discussions of what Russia was doing during the election.”
“Two months before the September meeting, Sessions attended a Heritage Foundation event in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention that was attended by roughly 50 ambassadors. When the event was over, a small group of ambassadors approached Sessions as he was leaving the podium, and Kislayk was among them, the Justice Department official said.”
“Sessions then spoke individually to some of the ambassadors, including Kislyak, the official said. In the informal exchanges, the ambassadors expressed appreciation for his remarks and some of them invited him to events they were sponsoring, said the official, citing a former Sessions staffer who was at the event.”
“Democratic lawmakers (including judicial committee members) have demanded that Sessions recuse himself from the government’s inquiry into possible ties between Trump associates and Russia.”
“Sessions’s position on Russia has evolved over time.”
“In an interview with RealClear World on the sidelines of the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum in March 2015, Sessions said the U.S. and Europe “have to unify” against Russia.”
“More than a year later, he spoke about fostering a stronger relationship with the Kremlin. In a July 2016 interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sessions praised Trump’s plan to build better relations with Russian President Putin.”
This blog was updated on 3/2/17.