Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions met the Russian ambassador during the election campaign, although he said at his confirmation hearing that he had “no communications with the Russians.”
The Justice Department confirmed that Mr. Sessions met Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., last year in July and September as part of his role on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Mr. Sessions said that his comments during the confirmation hearing were related to his role on the Trump campaign team.
Claims of Russian meddling in the U.S. election have dogged President Trump. The U.S. intelligence community believes that the hack of Democratic organizations was carried out by the Russians to help Trump win over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Michael Flynn, former National Security Adviser, was fired last month after it emerged that he misled the Vice-President Mike Pence about his conversations with Mr. Kislyak, allegedly regarding sanctions against Russia.
The Democrats have reacted with anger and asked for Mr. Sessions’ resignation and also demanded he steps aside from an FBI probe that he was overseeing regarding hacking claims.
Where did the allegations come from?
According to a Washington Post report, Mr. Sessions held a private conversation with Mr. Kislyak last year in September and also met other ambassadors earlier in the summer. Although he met more than 25 foreign ambassadors, his meeting with Mr. Kislyak came while he was a prominent member of the Trump campaign and claims of Russian meddling in the election were growing.
What did Sessions say?
Democrat Senator Al Franken asked Mr. Sessions during his confirmation hearing on January 10 that what would he do if he discovered someone associated with the Trump campaign had communicated with the Russian government during the campaign.
Mr. Session answered that he was unaware of those activities and clearly stated that he did not have communications with the Russians.
Mr. Sessions reiterated his stance in a statement Wednesday night:
“I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
Did he mislead the hearing?
Sarah Isgur Flores, Spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said that there “was nothing misleading about his answer” at the confirmation hearing. She said:
“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.”
White House also backed Mr. Sessions by saying that it was a “latest attack against the Trump administration by partisan Democrats.”
Democratic House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi demanded Mr. Sessions’ resignation and accused him of lying under oath.
The Democrats have already raised calls for Mr. Sessions to rescue himself from the FBI investigation into the hacking claims.
The congressional committee agreed to investigate Russia’s alleged interference in the election; the House Intelligence panel will look into contacts between President Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Russia has consistently rejected allegations of interference, and White House denies any improper behavior during the campaign.