US Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly had two conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, during the 2016 election, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday night.
The news comes as lawmakers call for an independent investigation into Russia’s election-related meddling and alleged ties to various Trump associates. It also comes less than one month after former national security adviser Michael Flynn was asked to resign following revelations that he spoke with Kislyak about US sanctions on Russia before Trump was sworn in.
Sessions spoke to Kislyak in July and September last year, the Post reported. During his confirmation hearing in January, however, Sessions said he “did not have communications with the Russians” while he served as a campaign surrogate for Trump.
“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions replied, when asked during the hearing whether he knew about contacts between Russia and Trump’s associates, which were at that point already being investigated by US intelligence officials.
“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians,” Sessions said.
Sessions did not consider his conversation with Kislyak relevant enough to disclose at the hearing, his spokesperson told the Post. Sessions did not even remember what he and Kislyak discussed, the spokesperson said.
The Senate confirmed Sessions as US attorney general on February 8, giving him control of the Justice Department and the FBI, which are currently investigating Russia’s cyberattacks against the US. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are also looking into the matter
Sessions has slapped away suggestions that he should recuse himself from the investigation. Sen. Lindsey Graham commented on the Post’s report during a CNN event on Wednesday night, saying “for sure you need a special prosecutor” if Sessions indeed spoke with the Kremlin.
Sessions and Kislyak spoke as Russia was ramping up its hacking campaign against prominent Democrats, including the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
The Trump administration has repeatedly denied all suggestions that it colluded with Russia’s interference activities. But The New York Times and CNN reported last month, citing US intelligence officials, that Russian operatives and people in Trump’s inner circle communicated frequently before the election.
The Times reported that the communications between people in Trump’s orbit and Russia ran deep on both sides. They were said to include other associates of Trump outside his campaign. And on the Russian side, people within the country’s government — in addition to intelligence officials — were also involved, according to The Times’ sources, who remained anonymous.
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