Our Confederate Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is in trouble again.
CNN reported Wednesday, Sources: Congress investigating another possible Sessions-Kislyak meeting:
Congressional investigators are examining whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions had an additional private meeting with Russia’s ambassador during the presidential campaign, according to Republican and Democratic Hill sources and intelligence officials briefed on the investigation.
Investigators on the Hill are requesting additional information, including schedules from Sessions, a source with knowledge tells CNN. They are focusing on whether such a meeting took place April 27, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC, where then-candidate Donald Trump was delivering his first major foreign policy address. Prior to the speech, then-Sen. Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak attended a small VIP reception with organizers, diplomats and others.
In addition to congressional investigators, the FBI is seeking to determine the extent of interactions the Trump campaign team may have had with Russia’s ambassador during the event as part of its broader counterintelligence investigation of Russian interference in the election.
The FBI is looking into whether there was an additional private meeting at the Mayflower the same day, sources said. Neither Hill nor FBI investigators have yet concluded whether a private meeting took place — and acknowledge that it is possible any additional meeting was incidental.
Sessions has previously failed to disclose meetings with Russian officials. During his confirmation hearing on January 10, Sessions testified [in response to a question from sen. Al Franken (D-MN)] that he “did not have any communications with the Russians” during the campaign. He also said in a written statement submitted to the Senate judiciary committee that he was not in contact with anyone linked to the Russian government during the election.
Those answers became problematic for Sessions when reports emerged in March that he did have two meetings with Kislyak during the campaign — one at the Republican National Convention in July and one in his Senate office in September. Sessions conceded that the meetings happened but insisted they were part of his Senate duties and had nothing to do with the campaign. Nonetheless, Sessions was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
[W]hen Sessions updated his sworn testimony to the Senate judiciary committee, he acknowledged the two meetings with Kislyak but did not mention any encounter at the Mayflower Hotel.
“I do not recall any discussions with the Russian ambassador, or any other representative of the Russian government, regarding the political campaign on these occasions or any other occasion,” Sessions wrote.
Senator Franken said Wednesday that he had asked the FBI whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions met more frequently than he admitted with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. Franken: I Asked FBI If Sessions Had More Russian Meetings:
Franken said the attorney general’s letter correcting that testimony in March was “very unsatisfactory.”
“Sen. Sessions’ letter to us was insulting our intelligence when he said why he didn’t do this,” he said, referring to Sessions’ failure to disclose the meetings with the Russian ambassador. “It actually contradicted his own explanations in the press conference.”
The senator told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell Wednesday night that he and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who is also on the Judiciary Committee, had even sent a letter to then-FBI Director James Comey, “asking him and the FBI to investigate whether in fact Sessions had met other times with Russians, including this meeting that we’re talking about in the Mayflower.”
* * *
On Thursday morning, Leahy released three letters that he and Franken sent to the FBI in March, April and May, the first two to Comey and the last to the bureau’s acting director, Andrew McCabe. The first asked Comey to investigate “all contacts the Russian ambassador, or any other Russian officials, may have had with Attorney General Sessions or with his staff, and whether any laws were broken in the course of those contacts or in any subsequent discussion of whether they occurred.”
“We served with the Attorney General in the Senate and on the Judiciary Committee for many years,” Leahy and Franken wrote in a statement accompanying the release. “We know he would not tolerate dishonesty if he were in our shoes. If it is determined that the Attorney General still has not been truthful with Congress and the American people about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, he needs to resign.”
“It had been characterized one way, but we had some reason to believe that that wasn’t the case,” Franken told O’Donnell Wednesday, referring to the gathering at the Mayflower. “It had been described in a way that he could plausibly say ‘I don’t remember that.’ But what’s coming out today I believe is that that may not be the case. And if this the true, that would be extremely disturbing.”
Franken added: “Our office has been in contact with the FBI on this. And they said they were crafting a response to us. It sounded to us that something was about to break on this.” He said that he wasn’t surprised at how the story had developed publicly.
NBC News followed up on Thursday with this report. Did Trump, Kushner, Sessions Have An Undisclosed Meeting With Russian?
The FBI and Congress are examining a campaign event last spring during which Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner were in a small gathering with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and other diplomats at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News.
Five current and former U.S. officials said they are aware of classified intelligence suggesting there was some sort of private encounter between Trump and his aides and the Russian envoy, despite a heated denial from Sessions, who has already come under fire for failing to disclose two separate contacts with Kislyak. Kushner also denied through a spokesman that he met privately with Kislyak that day.
The officials acknowledged to NBC News that the evidence does not amount to proof, and they have declined to provide details about it.
* * *
CNN reported Wednesday about the investigative interest in the Mayflower event, which took place on April 27, 2016. NBC News has been discussing the matter with knowledgeable sources for weeks, seeking more clarity about why Congressional investigators believe there may have been a private meeting.
A U.S. official with knowledge of the matter told NBC News that the FBI also is scrutinizing the Mayflower event, which was sponsored by a pro-Russian think tank. The official said the FBI is interested in who was at the event and what was said, in the context of the counter-intelligence investigation into Russian election meddling. That official said there was no indication the bureau is zeroing in on Sessions.
* * *
Sen. Al Franken, D.-Minnesota, who originally questioned Sessions about his Russian contacts during a confirmation hearing for Sessions’ appointment as attorney general, discussed the matter Wednesday night on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
“It had been characterized one way, but we had some reason to believe that wasn’t the case,” Franken said about the event. “It had been described in a way that he could say, ‘I don’t remember that.'”
It has long been known that Trump briefly met Ambassador Kislyak that day at a VIP reception shortly before he gave a foreign policy address at the hotel. But witnesses said it wasn’t a private meeting, and White House officials dismissed it as inconsequential.
“Mr. Trump warmly greeted Mr. Kislyak and three other foreign ambassadors who came to the reception,” the Wall Street Journal reported in May 2016.
Kushner and Sessions were also in the room, contemporaneous news reports say. Sessions’ aides have insisted he did not speak to Kislyak.
Congress is investigating the credibility of intelligence seeming to contradict that account, current and former U.S. officials say. And Franken, in a March letter to the FBI with Judiciary Committee Democrat Patrick Leahy, asked the bureau to investigate any contacts between Sessions and Russian officials, and to brief him on the results. He has not yet received an answer, an aide said.
* * *
In March, the Center for National Interest, the right-leaning, Russia-linked group that hosted the event, said that the receiving line “moved quickly and any conversations with Mr. Trump in that setting were inherently brief and could not be private. Our recollection is that the interaction between Mr. Trump and Ambassador Kislyak was limited to the polite exchange of pleasantries appropriate on such occasions.”
* * *
Lawmakers involved in the Russia investigation would not discuss the April meeting.
“I can’t comment on any of that,” Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence committee, told NBC News.
“Can’t talk about it,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, a member of the committee.
In a little noticed portion of a March congressional hearing on the Russia investigation, Rep. Mike Quigley, a Chicago Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, accused Sessions of having committed perjury about an alleged undisclosed third meeting in April.
He noted that Sessions had failed to disclose meetings with Kislyak in July and September, during a time the Russians were “hacking and dumping” stolen emails in the election campaign.
He added, “Unfortunately, what we’re reading now is that there was a third meeting as early as April of last year in Washington, D.C., a meeting at which Candidate Trump was present and the Russian ambassador was present. At some point in time, this goes well beyond an innocent, under the best of circumstances, ‘Oh I forgot’ sort of thing, or `That doesn’t count.’ When you correct your testimony in front of the United States Senate, you’re still under oath and you’re swearing to the American people that what you’re saying is true. Well, the third time is well beyond that and is quite simply, perjury.”
Quigley said he could not discuss the basis of his remarks about the April event, other than to say he wasn’t relying solely on news reports.
Any confirmation of a private meeting with Kislyak in April would raise a host of questions, most particularly for Sessions.
April 2016 is when officials at the Democratic National Committee first noticed suspicious activity on their network — activity they would later learn was part of a Russian hack.
The “classified intelligence” that both the FBI and Congress are looking at is probably signal intelligence, intercepted communications from the Russians describing a meeting at the Mayflower Hotel. They are trying to determine the credibility of that intelligence which seemingly contradicts the accounts of Sen. Sessions and Jared Kushner as well. The conclusion of that investigation is still pending.
If this undisclosed meeting did occur, Sen. Quigley is correct, “it is quite simply, perjury.” And as Sens. Franken and Leahy say in their letter, “If it is determined that the Attorney General still has not been truthful with Congress and the American people about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, he needs to resign.”