WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions angrily rebutted House Democrats’ suggestion that he had perjured himself in congressional testimony and on an application form for security clearance on Tuesday.
“I will not accept and reject accusations that I have ever lied under oath,” Sessions said, visibly angry. “That is a lie.”
Sessions testified under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October that he was not aware of any Trump campaign official having contact with Russian government officials. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation recently revealed that at least one campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, had contact with Russians and informed Sessions of that. On Tuesday, the attorney general testified that he now recalls Papadopoulos suggesting a meeting between President Trump and high-ranking Russian officials during a Trump campaign roundtable in March of last year. Sessions said he remembered Papadopoulos suggesting that meeting “after having read the newspaper.”
“After reading his account, and to the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government, or any other foreign government, for that matter,” Sessions said.
Democratic lawmakers grilled Sessions for having to correct his sworn testimony for the second time. Earlier, Sessions failed to disclose his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States on an application for security clearance and in testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January.
“Either you’re lying to the U.S. Senate or you’re lying to the House of Representatives,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.
Sessions blamed his executive assistant for informing him he did not have to disclose official meetings with representatives of foreign governments on his security clearance application as a member of Congress. He also again said his initial denials of meetings with Russians was not a lie, because he was answering the question in the context of whether he had “nefarious” meetings to influence the campaign.
“I certainly didn’t mean I’d never met a Russian in the history of my life,” Sessions said.
At one point, he reminded himself that the Democrats had the legal right to question him so closely.
“I guess he can say it’s free speech, he can’t be sued here,” Sessions said of Lieu’s question.
Democrats also criticized the attorney general for repeatedly saying he could not remember events they questioned him about.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., informed Sessions that he had already said he “could not recall” 20 times a few hours into the hearing. Sessions said he could “not recall” whether he had ever spoken to former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn about an alleged plan to extradite a Turkish cleric to Turkey for money, or whether Flynn had told him he was working for the Turkish government.
Sessions blamed the “chaos” of the Trump campaign and a lack of sleep while a surrogate for making it difficult for him to remember meetings and conversations.
“It was a form of chaos every day from day one,” he said.
Sessions also said he also had no memory of Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page informing him that he was taking a trip to Russia, but that he believes Page’s testimony that he did inform Sessions at the time.
“Am I supposed to stop him from taking a trip?” Sessions asked.
The attorney general downplayed the importance of the foreign policy group he led, which included Page and Papadopoulos.
“We were not a very effective group, really,” Sessions said.
Sessions claimed that he told Papadopoulos not to attempt to represent the Trump campaign to Russians or to other officials when he brought up the possibility. “I pushed back, I’ll just say it that way,” Sessions said.
(Cover tile photo: Alex Brandon/AP)
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