Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended himself from accusations that he made false statements during prior congressional testimony about former Trump campaign advisers’ contacts with Russia, saying it’s “not fair” for Democrats to accuse him of lying.
“You’re saying Mr. Carter Page, who left that meeting, according to the press reports, and I guess his deposition or interview, has been reported as saying, ‘I’m going to Russia.’ I made no response to him, didn’t acknowledge it, and you’re accusing me of lying about that?” Sessions told Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. “I say that’s not fair, Mr. Jeffries. I would say that’s not fair, colleagues. That’s not any indication that I in any way participated in anything wrong.”
Sessions has been criticized for answers he gave Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., regarding contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.
During his confirmation hearing in January, the attorney general said he “did not have communications” with Russian officials during the campaign and said he was “unaware” of Trump campaign worker contacts with Russian officials.
Sessions also addressed contacts that campaign surrogates had with Russia during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month. He told Franken, "I did not, and I'm not aware of anyone else that did," when asked whether Trump campaign officials had communications with the Russians.
But Page, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, told the House Intelligence Committee during closed-door testimony that he told Sessions in passing he was taking a trip to Russia. Page said Sessions “had no reaction whatsoever.”
Sessions was also reportedly aware that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos wanted to arrange a meeting during the campaign between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which Sessions advised against.
Sessions said Tuesday he only recently remembered his encounters with Page and Papadopoulos because of recent "news reports."
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.
Democrats have pushed for Sessions to clarify his previous comments and have criticized him for the discrepancies between his testimonies and what has since been revealed.
But Sessions said he has “always tried to answer the questions fairly and accurately.
“Nobody, nobody, not you or anyone else should be prosecuted, not me, or accused of perjury for answering the question the way I did in this hearing,” he said. “I don’t think it’s right to accuse me of doing something wrong. I had no participation in any wrongdoing with regard to influence in this campaign improperly.”