According to a bombshell report by the Washington Post, U.S. intelligence intercepts indicate that Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied when he claimed that he never discussed campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during their meetings last year.
One unnamed U.S. official quoted by the Post said Sessions “has provided ‘misleading’ statements that are ‘contradicted by other evidence.’”
“A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had ‘substantive’ discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration,” the Post adds.
By lying about his Russia contacts, Sessions opened himself up to blackmail. Russian officials knew that Sessions wasn’t telling the truth, and could’ve used the threat of publicly exposing him as a negotiating tool. Instead of making decisions based on what is best for the U.S., officials at risk of blackmail can potentially be manipulated to do the bidding of foreign interests.
This is the same situation former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn put himself in when he said publicly, and to the FBI, that he never discussed Russian sanctions with Kislyak before the inauguration. Flynn’s lies were revealed by the contents of intelligence intercepts indicating he did indeed discuss sanctions with Kislyak. Flynn stayed on the job for nearly three weeks after the White House was informed he was lying and hence vulnerable to blackmail.
Donald Trump Jr., former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and White House adviser Jared Kushner also opened themselves up to Russian blackmail by taking a June 2016 with a Russian lawyer who, through an intermediary, promised to provide them with incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
The emails prove that the Trump campaign, at the very least, was eager to collude with Russia. But while the Kremlin may have known about the meeting, the American public did not until the New York Times broke news about it more than a year after it occurred.
Last month, numerous outlets reported that the White House raced to ease sanctions on Russia in the days immediately following Trump’s inauguration. Yahoo reported that the Trump administration’s eagerness “alarmed some State Department officials, who immediately began lobbying congressional leaders to quickly pass legislation to block the move.”
Despite the growing Russia scandal, Trump administration officials continue to indicate they want to ease sanctions on the Putin regime, including returning two espionage-linked compounds on American soil to the Russians.
Meanwhile, the Russian government has repeatedly threatened “retaliation measures” if the compounds aren’t swiftly and unconditionally returned.
The Russian embassy Twitter account issued a similar threat in May. Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs in the Department of Homeland Security and a former member of the Homeland Security Adviser Committee during the Obama administration, linked the threat of “counter measures” with the Kremlin-connected lawyer’s confirmation that she did indeed meet with Trump campaign officials in June 2016.
On Friday, CNN reported that House and Senate leaders are close to striking a deal on a Russian sanctions bill that would tie the White House’s hands.
“The Trump administration pushed for weakening the provisions in the bill giving Congress veto power if the administration eased Russia sanctions, but that provision is included in the agreement with just a clarifying change,” CNN reports. “The Trump administration has lobbied Congress to weaken several provisions in the bill, but sources tell CNN that any potential veto threat would be a bad idea because it’s expected that the bipartisan Russian sanctions deal will be approved by veto-proof majorities in both chambers.”
Despite the U.S. intelligence community’s consensus conclusion that Russia interfered in the election on behalf of Trump, the fact his hand-picked attorney general and national security adviser were vulnerable to Russian blackmail, and evidence his campaign wanted to collude with Russia in the days immediately preceding the beginning of Russia’s active interference in the presidential election, Trump continues to dismiss the entire Russia scandal as a “hoax.”