Then Senator, now Attorney General Jeff Sessions had two conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign last year, a revelation now fueling calls for him to recuse himself from a Justice Department investigation into Russian interference in the election.
Sessions, an early supporter of President Trump and a policy adviser to the Republican candidate, did not disclose those communications at his confirmation hearing in January when asked whether “anyone affiliated” with the campaign had contact with the Russians.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said “there was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer.”
Sessions had meetings last year with more than 25 foreign ambassadors in his role as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and had two separate interactions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, the department said.
One was an office visit in the fall, and the other occurred in a group setting following a Heritage Foundation speech that Sessions gave during the summer.
“If reports are accurate that Attorney General Sessions — a prominent surrogate for Donald Trump — met with Ambassador Kislyak during the campaign, and failed to disclose this fact during his confirmation, it is essential that he recuse himself from any role in the investigation of Trump campaign ties to the Russians,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “This is not even a close call; it is a must.”
Sessions said he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign.”
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Meanwhile yesterday, Trump basked in the afterglow of his well-received speech to Congress, as he prepares to announce a revised travel ban for refugees and others from certain Muslim-majority countries as early as today.
The president spoke only briefly to reporters, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not hold a daily briefing — all aimed at keeping the focus on the president’s address during a rare day of rosy headlines and rave reviews.
Vice President Mike Pence made the rounds on news networks repeating key talking points and praising the president.
While it will take days to determine whether the speech will lift Trump’s dismal approval ratings, the instant feedback was encouraging for the White House.
Some 78 percent of speech-watchers reacted positively to Trump’s address, according to a poll from CNN. Eighty-two percent of speech-watchers called Trump “presidential” and 61 percent said the address made them feel more optimistic, according to a CBS News poll.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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