Jeff Sessions Under Fire As New Revelations Cast Further Doubt on His Russia Testimony

Al Franken demands answers about the attorney general’s interactions with George Papadopoulos.

Bill Clark/ZUMA

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Sen. Al Franken on Thursday issued a fiery letter demanding answers from US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, amid reports Sessions emphatically rejected a proposal in March 2016 from former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos to set up a meeting between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

“This newest revelation strongly suggests that the Senate—and the American public—cannot trust your word,” Franken wrote. 

During his confirmation hearings in January, Sessions told Congress in sworn testimony that he was unaware of any discussions between the Trump campaign and Russian officials to collaborate in defeating Hillary Clinton. Session’s interaction with Papdopoulos at the March 31 meeting came to light this week alongside the revelation that Papadopoulos quietly plead guilty to lying to federal authorities over the summer about his attempts to work with Russian officials on behalf of the Trump campaign.

A source familiar with the March 31 meeting told Mother Jones that Sessions does not recall Papadopoulos citing ongoing contacts with the Russians, but that he told Papadopoulos not to pursue contacts with the Russians.

The attorney general has repeatedly revised his account of his meetings with Russian officials during the campaign: First he claimed he had zero contacts with the Russians, only to admit later that he had met with the Russian ambassador, but did not discuss campaign-related issues. Last month, he changed his story once again, saying that the Trump campaign may have come up during his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

“How your responses morphed from ‘I did not have any communications with the Russians’ to ‘I did not discuss the political campaign’ and then finally going to ‘I did not discuss interference in the election’—that to me is moving the goal post every time,” Franken said during a second Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Sessions, in October. “By the end, we’re going to a 75-yard field goal.”

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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