On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions suddenly acknowledged discussing a Trump campaign adviser’s proposal to arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a campaign meeting in March 2016, according to NBC.
Citing an unnamed “source familiar with the matter” who is “familiar with Sessions’ views,” NBC, tracking reporting from a number of other outlets, reports that Sessions “rejected a proposal by a junior campaign aide who offered to use his ‘Russian contacts’ to try to set up a meeting” between Trump and Putin. That discussion, however, was so forgettable that Sessions would have you believe he may not even remember it.
Source clarifies: Unclear whether Sessions recalls nixing the Papadopoulos proposal for Trump Putin meeting — though he did do so.
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) November 2, 2017
There’s a good reason why Sessions is suddenly trying to jog his memory about the conversation — there’s lots of evidence it occurred, but Sessions repeatedly testified under oath that nothing of the sort did. By now acknowledging it happened but insisting he must’ve forgotten about it somewhere along the way, Sessions is able to argue he didn’t lie to Congress.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions denied having knowledge of “any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government during the course of the campaign.” But according to numerous reports and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos’ newly disclosed guilty plea for making false statements to the FBI, Sessions and Trump participated in a March 2016 conversation about whether Trump should meet with Putin — a meeting in which Papadopoulos made clear he could arrange a Trump-Putin rendezvous because of his “connections.” NBC’s report is the latest evidence that the conversation did indeed happen.
Sessions’ confirmation hearing wasn’t the only sworn testimony he offered that looks dubious in light of the Papadopoulos revelations. As CNN details, “Sessions testified in June that he wasn’t aware of any conversations between ‘anyone connected to the Trump campaign’ and Russians about ‘any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.” Sessions was also “asked under oath at a Senate hearing last month if he believed Trump campaign surrogates had communications with Russians, [and he] replied, ‘I did not and I’m not aware of anyone else that did, and I don’t believe it happened.'”
Such testimony is impossible to square with the Papadopoulos plea — unless Sessions had some sort of memory lapse in the months between March 2016 and October 2017, as he now reportedly claims.
But even if Sessions’ new story is taken at face value, it doesn’t explain why he thought he could get away with denying that “anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government during the course of the campaign.”
Less than two months after Sessions’ confirmation hearing, the Washington Post broke news that Sessions had in fact met with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least twice during the campaign. That report made Sessions’ testimony look misleading at best, and resulted in him recusing himself from overseeing the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign for possible collusion with Russia.
Sessions’ explanation for not disclosing those meetings is that he didn’t think he had to because nothing related to the campaign was discussed with Kislyak. But as the Wall Street Journal reported, one of Sessions’ meetings with Kislyak happened at the 2016 Republican National Convention — an event Sessions traveled to and from using campaign funds. What’s more, a person who was at the RNC told the Journal that Sessions and Kislyak discussed the Trump campaign.