Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings to be the next U.S. attorney general on January 10. Sessions met twice with Russia's ambassador to the United States last year and failed to mention it during his confirmation hearings, Justice Department officials said. File photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
March 1 (UPI) -- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with Russia's ambassador to the United States last year, and failed to mention it during his confirmation hearings, Justice Department officials said.
The Washington Post and CNN reported unidentified officials with the Justice Department said the department is investigating Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election and any links to associates of President Donald Trump. Sessions heads the Justice Department.
Sessions spoke with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in July and September while he was a senior member of the Armed Services Committee and one of Trump's top foreign policy advisers during the presidential campaign, The Washington Post reported.
The meeting in July was on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the other one two months later in his office in Washington, CNN reported.
At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign.
"I'm not aware of any of those activities," he responded, adding: "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians."
When asked to comment on Sessions' contacts with Kislyak, Franken said in a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday night: "If it's true that Attorney General Sessions met with the Russian ambassador in the midst of the campaign, then I am very troubled that his response to my questioning during his confirmation hearing was, at best, misleading."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took a stronger stance.
She called on Sessions to resign because he "lied under oath during his confirmation hearing before the Senate."
"Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign," she continued.
Sessions, a former Republican senator from Alabama, said in a statement, "I have never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false."
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., had asked Sessions in a set of written questions as part of the confirmation process: "Several of the president-elect's nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?"
Sessions responded: "No."
Sarah Isgur Flores, director of public affairs at the Department of Justice, said nothing was "misleading about his answer" to Congress because he "was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign -- not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee."
Flores said Sessions last year had more than 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian and German ambassadors.
Sessions oversees the FBI. He has so far declined to recuse himself from the investigation of Russia, which several U.S. agencies have said hacked Democratic National Committee computer servers.
In February, The Washington Post reported that one month before Trump took office, in December, -then national security adviser designate Michael Flynn discussed with Kislyak about U.S. sanctions of Russia as punishment for the election meddling. That is contrary to what he told Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, and other top Trump officials. Flynn was asked to resign the following week on Feb. 13.