March 13, 2017
A claim by Vladimir Putin’s spokesman that people associated with Hillary Clinton also met with the Russian ambassador is the latest detail to cause problems for Democrats who blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions for meeting with the same official last year.
It was immediately denied by a former Clinton campaign spokesman.
Dmitry Peskov said on CNN Saturday that Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s job is to meet with officials on both sides of the political aisle, and to foster “bilateral relations.” He said people associated with Clinton during the presidential campaign met with him too.
“Well, if you look at some people connected with Hillary Clinton during her campaign, you would probably see that he had lots of meetings of that kind,” Peskov said. “There are lots of specialists in politology, people working in think tanks advising Hillary or advising people working for Hillary.”
However, former Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill told Fox News Monday night “it’s not true, which is why they’re using the word “probably” is my guess.”
Sessions faces sustained criticism from Democrats after two 2016 meetings with Kislyak were revealed in the press. The biggest issue for Sessions was that he claimed in his Senate confirmation hearing he did not have communications with Russian officials. Some Democrats accused him of perjury. While Sessions defended his statements, he agreed to recuse himself from any campaign- and Russia-related investigations.
Some Democrats, though, went further and suggested the meetings themselves were out of the ordinary. It didn’t take long for Kislyak’s many past meetings with members of both parties to come to light.
After House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., denied having ever met with the ambassador, Politico unearthed a 2010 photo showing a meeting of congressional lawmakers and then-Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev. Pelosi and Kislyak were present.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., also tweeted that she had “been on the Armed Services Com for 10 years. No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever. Ambassadors call members of Foreign Rel Com.” This turned out not to be true after online sleuths found a 2013 tweet in which she said: “Off to meeting w/Russian Ambassador.”
McCaskill’s 2013 meeting involved 10 senators, of both parties. They were appealing to Kislyak for Moscow to reverse its blockade of U.S. adoptions of Russian children.
Democrats have noted that none of the Democratic meetings revealed to date were one-on-one, and that the main issue with Sessions is he denied Russia contacts at the confirmation hearing.
Sessions has said he was answering in the context of campaign-related discussions. He has since sought to clarify the record.