Democrats to question Sessions on Russia contacts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will face a barrage of questions from Democrats in the House of Representatives on Tuesday over whether he lied about communications between President Donald Trump’s election campaign and Russian representatives.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about the Trump Administration efforts to combat the opioid crisis at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, New York, U.S., October 27, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee say they will grill Sessions about statements he made to the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which he denied knowing about meetings between campaign aides and Russians.

Sessions’ statements, made at his confirmation hearing in January and at a Senate Judiciary hearing in October, appear to have been contradicted when charges against former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos were unsealed in a probe into allegations of links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

“We intend to ask you about these inconsistencies,” the committee’s Democratic members said in a Nov. 7 letter to Sessions. “We are providing you notice in advance because we expect you to respond,” the Democrats said.

Sessions, a former U.S. Senator who was involved in Trump’s campaign, has denied misleading Congress, saying his prior statements under oath were all true.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to help then-Republican candidate Trump’s campaign.

The Kremlin has denied interfering in the election and Trump denies any collusion between his campaign and Russian officials.

FORMER AIDE

Sessions is likely to be pressed about Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser.

In court records, prosecutors say Papadopoulos told a March 2016 meeting of campaign officials that he had Russian connections and could help arrange a meeting with Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A photograph posted on Trump’s Instagram account shows that Papadopoulos, Sessions and Trump were all seated at the same table in that meeting.

According to a source familiar with the matter, Sessions shut down Papadopoulos’ idea of engaging with Russia, and the Trump administration has played down Papadopoulos’ role in the campaign, saying he was nothing more than a low level volunteer.

But the court documents, and Papadopoulos’ guilty plea for lying to the FBI over his contacts with Russian officials, put new focus on Sessions’ earlier testimony.

Sessions said during January’s confirmation hearing that he was unaware of communications between the campaign and Russia.

After the hearing, news reports emerged showing that Sessions had himself met Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak at least twice in 2016.

Under pressure, Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.

In another Senate hearing last month, Sessions testified he had no improper involvement with Russians and was not aware of anyone else from the campaign who did.

“Attorney General Sessions has misrepresented the truth … time and time again,” Al Franken, a Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee member, said on the Senate floor on Monday.

Sessions is also likely to face tough questions over his decision to ask federal prosecutors to look into whether a special counsel should be appointed to probe any wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation over the sale of a uranium company to Russia.

Sessions asked for prosecutors to look at the matter in response to a letter from Representative Robert Goodlatte, the House Judiciary Committee chairman. Trump has repeatedly criticized the Justice Department for not aggressively probing the Democrats and his former election rival Hillary Clinton over various conservative charges.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by David Alexander and Alistair Bell

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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