Despite the fact that Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeatedly outlined the conversations he said he had with Russian diplomats during the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, Senators at Tuesday’s Senate Intelligence Committee repeatedly peppered Sessions with various forms of the same question — whether he had met with Russian officials during the course of the campaign.
It was not clear whether those inquiring senators — mostly Democrats and some Republicans — expected a different answer to the same question.
Sessions previously acknowledged that he met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in his capacity as a senator and chairman of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.
In his opening remarks, Sessions stated unequivocally that he had never had any conversations with Russian officials about interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Sessions declared: “Let me state this clearly: I have never met with or had any conversations with Russians or any foreign officials concerning any interference with any campaign or election. Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign.”
“I was your colleague in this body for 20 years, and the suggestion that I participated in any collusion or that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor over 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process is an appalling and detestable lie,” he said. “I recused myself from any investigation into the campaigns for President, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations.”
In his remarks Tuesday, Sessions again addressed a third possible brief encounter with Kislyak, who was a guest in the audience at an April foreign policy speech delivered by then-candidate Trump at the Mayflower hotel.
Sessions reportedly attended a pre-speech reception with dozens of other guests, including Kislyak. He says he did not meet privately with Kislyak and does not recall greeting him, but allows that the two may have exchanged a passing interaction — one that would have taken place in a room full of attendees.
“I attended a reception with my staff, that included at least two dozen people and President Trump, though I do recall several conversations I had during that pre-speech reception, and I do not have recollection of meeting or talking to the Russian ambassador or any other Russian officials. If any brief interaction occurred in passing with the Russian ambassador in that reception, I do not remember it.”
Despite Sessions’ accounting of his meetings with Russian diplomats during the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, senators repeatedly peppered Sessions with the same general question about whether he had met with Russian officials during the course of the campaign.
Here are 12 times from Tuesday’s hearing that senators asked Sessions whether he met with Russian officials:
1 – Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) asked, “One, did you have any meetings with Russian officials or their proxies on behalf of the Trump campaign or during your time as attorney general?”
2 – Burr asked, “From your testimony, you said you don’t remember whether the ambassador from Russia was there?”
3 – Burr: “You never remember having a conversation or meeting with the ambassador?”
4 – Burr: “You reported two other meetings with the ambassador, one in July on the sidelines of the Republican convention, I believe and one in September in your senate office. Have you had any other interactions with government officials over the year in a campaign capacity?”
5 – Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, asked: “And again, echoing what the chairman said, again for the record, there was no other meeting with any other officials of the Russian government in the campaign season?”
6 – Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO): “So when you said you possibly had a meeting with Mr. Kislyak, did you mean you possibly met him?”
7 – Sen. Joe Manchin (D-VA): “If I could, sir, did you have any meetings, any other meetings with Russian officials that have not previously been disclosed?”
8 – Manchin: “I’m going to go quick through this. Are there any other meetings between Russian government officials and any other Trump campaign associates that have not been previously disclosed that you know of?”
9 – Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA): “Did you have any communications with Russian officials for any reason during the campaign that have not been disclosed in public or to this committee?”
10 – Harris: “Did you have any communication with any Russian businessman or any Russian nationals?”
11 – Harris: “Are you aware of any communications (with Russians)?”
12 – Harris: “Are you aware of any communications with any Trump officials or did you have any communications with any officials about Russia or Russian interests in the United States before January 20?”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
With research by Joshua Klein.