The Justice Department hit back Friday night at a report citing anonymous sources who said Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed sensitive matters with a Russian official during last year's presidential race ins spite of his subsequent testimony that he did not.
The Washington Post, citing unnamed current and former officials, reported that Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak claimed he discussed the 2016 campaign with Sessions during the race, possibly contradicting the attorney general’s public comments about his interactions with Russian officials, according to a Washington Post report Friday.
According to the Post, Kislyak told his superiors in Russia that he discussed the presidential campaign and issues of importance to his country with Sessions. The outlet said the ambassador’s conversations with his bosses were picked up by U.S. spy agencies.
Sessions, who was a senator from Alabama during the presidential race, has faced questions about whether he properly disclosed his past interactions with Kislyak while a lawmaker who was a high-profile Trump surrogate.
After such questions were raised, Sessions announced in March he would recuse himself from the investigation into Russia’s attempted meddling in the campaign.
“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.”
He has denied meeting with Russian officials about the campaign.
Sessions said at the time, “I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.”
The conversations between Kislyak and Sessions took place in April of 2016 before a Trump speech on foreign policy and in July during the Republican National Convention. It’s typical for lawmakers to meet with ambassadors.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores denied Sessions had improper discussions with Kislyak or was untruthful about it later.
"Obviously I cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that the Washington Post has not seen and that has not been provided to me, but the Attorney General stands by his testimony from just last month before the Senate Intelligence Committee when he specifically addressed this and said that he 'never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election,'" Flores said.
The Post noted that Russians and diplomats from other countries have reported false information in the past to impress their bosses or confuse the intelligence agencies listening in on conversations.
The story comes the same week President Trump lashed out at Sessions during an interview with The New York Times.
The president said in that interview he wouldn’t have appointed Sessions – a loyal surrogate during the campaign – to lead the Justice Department had he known he would have recused himself from the Russian probe.