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Jeff Sessions and the Russians: The Facts of the Matter

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) (Photo: Screenshot)

The Washington Post, CNN, and a host of others have spent the past week calling the actions of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions into question.

During Attorney General Sessions’ January 10th confirmation hearings, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) asked Sessions what he’d do (as A.G.) if he learned that anyone in the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government about the presidential campaign.

It’s important to pause here to note that Franken’s prior comments made his context clear: he was asking what Sessions would do if the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to influence the election.

Sessions’ two-part answer was plain and simple:

Part A: “I’m not aware of any of those activities.”
Part B: “…I did not have communications with the Russians…”

Part A of Sessions’ answer is important because clearly when he said “those activities” he meant the activities of the campaign. Part B is important because he voluntarily went beyond the question Franken posed, stating that he’d personally had no such communications.

Some reporters and politicians now suggest that Mr. Sessions intentionally misled Franken with those answers, citing the fact that he visited with the Russian ambassador during the campaign.

Mr. Sessions did interact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice during the presidential campaign. The first time was following a speech he gave to a hundred or so foreign ambassadors at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative D.C. think tank. The second was when Kislyak and about twenty other foreign ambassadors visited Sessions’ office, as he was then a Member of the Armed Services committee.

As Sessions spokesperson Sarah Flores told the Washington Post: “He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee.

She reiterated this to Buzz Feed: “There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer. Last year, the Senator had over 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian, German and Russian ambassadors. He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign—not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Sessions said the same to NBC this Sunday: “I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign and those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false,” he said. “And I don’t have anything else to say about that.

Nevertheless, Mr. Sessions took the high road and amended his confirmation testimony to clarify his answers to Franken. To the surprise of no one, he made the distinctions noted above.

I did not mention communications I had had with the Russian ambassador over the years because the question did not ask about them,” Sessions wrote.

RELATED: Demeaning an Honorable Man: The Half-Baked Effort to Disparage Jeff Sessions

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