Allegations of colluding with Russia and Vladimir Putin have plagued US President Donald Trump’s administration from the time when it was still a presidential campaign. And it appears as though the rumours of the links show no signs of going away.
Washington DC has been hit by yet another scandal over the alleged links with Russia, with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ name cropping up in the reports. The fresh allegations come close on the heels of the exit of Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn – for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador to the US.
Here’s a breakdown of the developments:
- According to Justice Department officials, Jeff Sessions spoke to Russia's ambassador to the United States twice last year – while he was still a US Senator. (The Washington Post)
- He didn't disclose this, when asked about contacts between President Trump's election campaign and Russian representatives, during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general.
- One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. (The Washington Post)
- Jeff Sessions’ public position on Russia has evolved over time. In 2015, he had an anti-Russia stance. However, in 2016, he praised Trump’s policies to improve US-Russian ties. (The Washington Post)
- The House of Representatives intelligence panel inquiry will scrutinise contacts between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia. (BBC)
Sessions’ Denial Greeted With Calls for Resignation
- According to officials, Sessions didn't see the conversations as being relevant to the lawmakers’ questions. They said he did not remember the details of his discussions with the Ambassador. His office says his statements weren’t misleading. (The Washington Post)
- Sessions has denied the allegations. On Wednesday, he stressed that he had "never met any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign". (BBC)
- Nancy Pelosi, Democratic House Minority Leader, accused Sessions of "lying under oath" and has demanded his resignation. (BBC)
- Ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee, Elijah Cummings, has called for Sessions' "immediate" resignation. (The Guardian)
- Russian Ambassador to the US Sergei Kislyak hasn't commented on the reports. (BBC)
Obama Administration Made it Easier for Investigators
- Near the end of the Obama administration, White House officials rushed to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election and also about the possible connections between Trump and the Vladimir Putin. (The New York Times)
- The officials wanted to make sure such collusion didn’t take place again and to ensure that government investigators would have a clear trail of intelligence to follow should they take up the issue in the future. (The New York Times)
- Former senior Obama administration officials have said the efforts were not directed by former President Obama. (The New York Times)
- The Trump administration's hands will be tied vis-a-vis its Russia policy, if members of Congress begin to believe the alleged collusion of some sort between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian officials. (Quartz)
- In light of this report about Sessions, it will become untenable for Republicans to be resistant to appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump campaign-Russia link. (The Washington Post)