Another member of President Donald Trump’s administration seems to have been caught not telling the whole truth about a meeting with Russian officials.
This time, it’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller report for the Washington Post:
Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.
As the Post notes here, Sessions had already previously failed to disclose his meeting with Kislyak. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians,” he told the Senate — under oath — during his confirmation hearings for his attorney general nomination in January.
Sessions defended himself by arguing that he had not lied under oath, because he argued that he had not communicated with Russian officials as a Trump campaign surrogate, but in his capacity as a senator. In March, he said, “I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.”
Kislyak’s intercepted report to his superiors in Moscow, however, suggests that Sessions did talk to the Russian ambassador at least in part about the presidential campaign.
As the Post explains it:
One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he had no recollection of an April encounter — 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.
Russian officials do often give false or misleading information to superiors “to bolster their standing with their superiors or to confuse U.S. intelligence agencies,” the Post reporters write. That could be true in this situation.
Trump, meanwhile, hasn’t yet responded to the substance of the accusations. Instead, he complained on Saturday morning on Twitter about intelligence leaks to the press, which have been a regular annoyance to his administration.
A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions.These illegal leaks, like Comey's, must stop!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
But given everything else that Trump officials have been caught doing so far, this only adds to the cloud of doubt surrounding the president and his team’s ties with Russia.
Trump and his people keep getting caught doing fishy things with Russia
The report about Sessions is yet another example of a Trump administration official getting caught after failing to disclose communications with Russian officials.
Most recently, it was reported that Trump had a secret meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit. It’s unclear what the two men talked about because there are no records on the US side of the meeting — besides Trump and Putin, only Putin’s translator was present.
Before that, the New York Times revealed that Donald Trump Jr. (Trump’s son), Jared Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law and a top adviser to the administration), and Paul Manafort (Trump’s ex–campaign manager) met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer.
At first, Trump Jr. said the meeting was about Russia’s adoption policy. As the Times closed in on the real story, Trump Jr. preemptively released emails — which had been forwarded to Kushner and Manafort — from the person who set up the meetings. They explicitly said the meeting would net “very high level and sensitive information” about Hillary Clinton that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
This wasn’t the first secret Russian dealing Kushner was involved in. Previously, several outlets reported that Kushner had tried to set up a secret communication channel with Russia — reportedly to talk the Syrian civil war and policy, but there were also questions about another meeting Kushner had with the executive of a sanctioned Russian bank.
Then there was the first major resignation of the Trump administration: Michael Flynn. Trump’s former national security adviser reportedly talked by phone with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, on December 29 — the same day President Barack Obama’s administration imposed sanctions on Russia as punishment for its interference in the US presidential election. Flynn at first insisted that he hadn’t discussed the sanctions, but was forced to resign after it was exposed that he was lying and had indeed talked sanctions with Kislyak.
It goes on on and on.
The mounting lies and half-truths about Trump and his staff’s communications with Russians only cast a bigger cloud over the ongoing Russian investigation. Trump and his team insist to this day that they didn’t collude with Russia in its attempts to interfere with the presidential election. Yet they held all these meetings with Russian officials, failed to disclose them, and, when the news came out, repeatedly lied or misled about what happened at the meetings. It all seems very fishy.