After Attorney General Jeff Sessions came under fire for not disclosing two election-season meetings with the Russian Ambassador -- a move that resulted in his recusal from investigations involving the Trump campaign and Russian contacts -- Sessions on Monday sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee to update his testimony.
As he said during a press conference last week, Sessions defended the answers he gave during his Senate confirmation hearing in January, saying he answered the question correctly, as he’d interpreted it.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) had asked him about a “continuing exchange of information during the campaign” between Trump aides and Russian officials. Sessions replied that he was “not aware of any of those activities,” adding that he “did not have communications with the Russians.”
“My answer was correct,” Sessions wrote in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “...I was surprised by the allegations in the question, which I had not heard before. I answered the question, which asked about a ‘continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government,’ honestly.”
“I did not mention communications I had with the Russian Ambassador over the years because the question did not ask about him,” Sessions continued.
He reiterated that he had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice -- once during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland after a speech he gave, the other in September in the presence of members of his staff. He said he “[does] not recall” any discussions about the presidential race with Kislyak or other Russian officials.
In his letter to Grassley, Sessions said he had been considering recusing himself from investigations into the Trump campaign before the first reports of his meetings with Kislyak -- he said that on Feb. 27, he and his staff scheduled a meeting for March 2 to discuss recusal, the same day he ultimately held a press conference announcing his recusal.
“Within a week of becoming Attorney General, I held the first meeting concerning recusal,” he said. “...This process and schedule were established before I was made aware of any concern about the accuracy of my testimony before the Committee.”