March 05, 2017
Given the media scrutiny and harsh criticism by some congressmen of Senator Jeff Session’s (R-Ala.) — now Attorney General Sessions — two meetings with the Russian ambassador in 2016, and that U.S. senators regularly meet with ambassadors as part of their job, a government accountability group is calling on all senators to disclose the ambassador meetings they had over the last three years.
In a statement released today, Matthew G. Whitaker, the executive director of the Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust (FACT), said, “Attorney General Sessions correctly stated that meeting with ambassadors to the United States from other countries was part his job as a U.S. senator. He said he met with two dozen ambassadors in 2016 and actually met with the Ukrainian ambassador the day before he met with the Russian ambassador.”
“Other senators in both parties have mentioned they too have met with ambassadors,” said Whitaker. “FACT is now calling on all U.S. senators, Democrat and Republican, to immediately release the names and dates of all their meetings with ambassadors over the last three years.”
“If we are going to have a national discussion about senators meeting with ambassadors, it is appropriate for all senators to disclose who they met with so the public, and apparently the media, understand that all General Sessions did was his job,” said Whitaker.
Leading Democrats in the House and Senate have accused Attorney General Sessions of not telling the truth about his meetings with Russian officials during his confirmation hearing.
In a press conference yesterday, March 2, Sessions said, “First, about the comments that I made to the committee that have been said to be incorrect and false, let me be clear. I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.”
“And the idea that I was part of a quote, ‘continuing exchange of information’ during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government is totally false,” said Attorney General Sessions.
He continued, “That is the question that Senator Franken asked me at the hearing, and that’s what got my attention. As he noticed — noted, it was the first — just breaking news. And it got my attention. And that is the question I responded to.”
“I did not respond by referring to the two meetings, one very brief after a speech, and one with two of my senior staffers, professional staffers with the Russian ambassador in Washington, where no such things were discussed,” said Sessions.
“In my reply to the question — my reply to the question of Senator Franken was honest and correct as I understood it at the time,” said Sessions. “I appreciate that some have taken the view that this was a false comment. That is not my intent. That is not correct.”
“I will write the Judiciary Committee soon, today or tomorrow, to explain this testimony for the record,” he said.
Sessions, as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2016, met with the Russian ambassador once in July and once in September. The July encounter reportedly was in a public setting after a speech. The September meeting was in the senator’s Capitol Hill office, attended by two of Sessions’ staffers.
News reports today state that the Russian ambassador made at least 22 visits at the White House under President Barack Obama.
Also, although Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) — who called on Sessions to resign on Thursday — said she had never met with Russian officials, her Twitter account reveals that she tweeted about “meeting w/Russian Ambassador” on Jan. 30, 2013. Further, McCaskill tweeted on Aug. 6, 2015: “Today calls with British, Russian, and German Ambassadors re: Iran deal. #doing myhomework.”