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Obama’s State Department Sponsored 2016 Meeting of Russian Ambassador with Sen. Sessions

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President Barack Obama’s Department of State sponsored the July event in Ohio where Sen. Jeff Sessions met the Russian ambassador for the second time in 2016, according to the organizers of the event.

The July 20 meeting in Cleveland was used by the Washington Post’s March 1 headline to double the number of meetings where Sessions met with Russians in 2016. “Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose,” said the headline, which has created a mini-scandal as Democratic partisans push for Sessions’ resignation from his post as the nation’s Attorney General, amid Democratic claims that the Russian government helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election.

The two-day event was hosted by a civic organization, Global Cleveland, whose website cites the state department’s role:

On Tuesday, July 19, Global Cleveland welcomed roughly 80 international ambassadors to its Global Partners in Diplomacy reception at Severance Hall. The event, coordinated in partnership with the 2016 Republican National Convention and the U.S. Department of State, introduced the ambassadors to nearly 200 of Northeast Ohio’s civic and corporate leaders.

…. The [first] evening’s keynote speaker, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, stressed the importance of understanding what “having people of different backgrounds and origins means to your community.”

… Click here to see pictures from the event: https://www.facebook.com/GlobalCleveland/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1105759579497225

The July 19 activities were covered by Cleveland.com, which quotes one of the organizers saying “We are working very closely with the State Department and the RNC to make sure folks coming to Cleveland are filled in with everything they need to know about, including that Cleveland is awesome.”

The revelation of the State Department’s role in arranging Sessions’ brief meeting with the Russian ambassador comes as news reports sketch out a large effort by deputies working for outgoing President Barack Obama to track and disseminate information about Donald Trump and his deputies.

The Washington Post article used the Ohio event to justify its front-page claim that Sessions held “meetings” with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kisylak. According to the article’s lede:

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general…

The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election.

But the Washington Post only briefly described the Ohio meeting in the 32nd and 33rd paragraphs of the story, saying:

Two months before the September meeting, Sessions attended a Heritage Foundation event in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention that was attended by about 50 ambassadors. When the event was over, a small group of ambassadors approached Sessions as he was leaving the podium, and Kislyak was among them, the Justice Department official said.

Sessions then spoke individually to some of the ambassadors, including Kislyak, the official said. In the informal exchanges, the ambassadors expressed appreciation for his remarks and some of them invited him to events they were sponsoring, said the official, citing a former Sessions staffer who was at the event.

Sessions said he also met the Russian ambassador in September, with two of his senior staff. The meeting became “testy” when the subject of Ukraine was broached, he said at a March 2 press conference.

 

 


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