Donald Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions twice spoke with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign. Sessions is another Trump appointee raising questions about Trump and Russia connection.
The Washington Post, citing justice department officials, first reported that Sessions met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak once in September 2016, when US intelligence officials were investigating Russian interference in the presidential election, and once in the summer of that year.
It was communications with Kislyak that led to the firing of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in February.
A spokeswoman for Sessions confirmed that the meetings took place, but provided a statement from the attorney general saying they were not related to the election campaign.
Sessions, a former senator from Alabama who was among Trump’s early and most vocal surrogates on the campaign trail, did not disclose the conversations when asked under oath during his Senate confirmation hearing in early 2017 about possible contacts between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.
Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, called for Sessions’ resignation. “After lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the attorney general must resign,” she said.
“Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign. There must be an independent, bipartisan, outside commission to investigate the Trump political, personal and financial connections to the Russians.”
The White House swiftly rejected the reports as an effort to undermine Trump’s speech before Congress on Tuesday night, which was reviewed favourably by the US media despite signalling no substantive shift in policy.
“This is the latest attack against the Trump administration by partisan Democrats,” a senior administration official said, according to CNN.
“Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate armed services committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony.”
When Sessions was asked during his 10 January testimony to the Senate judiciary committee how he would respond if he learned of communications between the Trump campaign and Russian officials leading up to the election, he said he was “not aware of any of those activities”.
He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
rump’s friendly posture toward Russia has sounded alarms across the US and frequently proved a source of consternation among members of his own party.
The president has routinely praised his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Following his victory in November, Trump nominated Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state – a former CEO of ExxonMobil with close ties to Russia.
Trump’s administration has also refused to categorically rule out lifting sanctions imposed against Russia by the Obama administration, prompting bipartisan efforts to ratify those sanctions into law.
Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site.