'US Attorney General Sessions met Russian envoy twice last year'

Indo Asian News Service

Washington, March 2 (IANS) The US Justice Department said Jeff Sessions spoke twice last year with Russias Ambassador to Washington -- the encounters Sessions did not disclose during his Congressional confirmation hearing to become the Attorney General in January, the media reported.

One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator's office, the Washington Post reported, citing department officials as saying on Wednesday.

When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, the senator was a senior member of the influential Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump's top foreign policy advisers.

Sessions played a prominent role supporting Trump after the billionaire businessman formally joining the presidential campaign in February 2016.

At his January 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Senator Al Franken what he would do if he learnt of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

"I'm not aware of any of those activities," he responded, adding: "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians."

Also in January, Senator Patrick J. Leahy asked Sessions for answers to written questions, the Washington Post said.

"Several of the President-elect's nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?" Leahy wrote.

Sessions responded with one word: "No".

However, the Attorney General on Wednesday night, in response to the Justice Department claims, said he "never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false."

Officials said Sessions did not consider the conversations relevant to the lawmakers' questions and did not remember in detail what he discussed with Kislyak.

"There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer," said Sarah Isgur Flores, Sessions's spokeswoman.

She added that Sessions last year had more than 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian and German ambassadors, in addition to Kislyak.

Several Democratic members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday night called on Sessions to resign from his post.

The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- both under Sessions' supervision -- are in charge of investigating alleged Russian interference in the presidential election, besides alleged links between Trump's campaign and the Kremlin.

--IANS

ksk/vt