U.S. Lawmakers Push Attorney General On Russia-Related Contacts During Campaign
Mike Eckel November 14, 2017
WASHINGTON -- Congressional lawmakers pressed the United States' top law enforcement official on his recollection of interactions between President Donald Trump's election campaign and Russian officials.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions' testimony on November 14 before the House Judiciary Committee came as the Justice Department's special counsel moves deeper into his investigation of those alleged Russian contacts.
The issue was becoming increasingly tense for the White House following the indictment of a top former Trump campaign official and a guilty plea from another foreign policy adviser.
Sessions, an early and leading supporter of Trump, was forced to recuse himself from oversight of the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign after he gave misleading statements about his own interactions.
That was followed by Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey and later led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Trump has repeatedly voiced frustration about the Mueller probe and publicly criticized Sessions, stoking speculation he might be fired.
Asked about his reported conversations with foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who met with Russian intermediaries in Europe, Sessions said he didn't initially recall a meeting in March 2016 where Papadopoulos suggested a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sessions later said he recalled the meeting following news reports about it.
"I believe that I wanted to make clear that he wasn't authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government, or any other foreign government, for that matter," he testified.
Papadopolous pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.
Sessions also told the House committee that he did not recall an encounter with another campaign adviser, Carter Page. Page has said publicly that he told Sessions last year that he was preparing to visit Russia.
Sessions also said he had no challenge to Page's recollection of those events.
Sessions has given sworn testimony at least three times to Senate and House committees, and Democratic lawmakers have pointed to inconsistencies in his statements.
Some lawmakers have suggested Sessions may have perjured himself, a felony crime.
Several Republican lawmakers also pressed Sessions on the issue of a controversial uranium deal about seven years ago, which involved the sale of U.S. uranium mining rights to a Russian state-owned company.
The private charitable foundation of former President Bill Clinton had ties to some of the companies involved in the deal, and Republicans have called for an investigation.
The Justice Department on November 14 informed the House committee that it was looking into whether a special independent counsel should be appointed.
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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