Sen. Warner on Sessions' knowledge of Russia contacts: "A picture's worth a thousand words"

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said Sunday -- in light of recent charges filed against former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos -- that congressional investigators would like to hear from Attorney General Jeff Sessions again if there is any information he needs to clarify. 

"Listen, I want to give the attorney general the benefit of the doubt, but a picture's worth a thousand words. The fact that Mr. Papadopoulos was there with that meeting with ... then-Senator Sessions -- if, if there's more information that he needs to clarify, we'd like to hear that," Warner said Sunday on CBS News' "Face the Nation."  

The photo in question, from early last year, shows then-candidate Trump's "national security meeting" being led by Sessions and attended by Papadopoulos. 

Court documents unsealed over the past week have renewed interest in whether Sessions misled Congress when he testified recently that neither he nor anyone else was in contact with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign, CBS News' Jeff Pegues reported. 

Last month, Sessions testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that neither he nor anyone else was in contact with Russian operatives during the election cycle. 

Pegues reports the court documents unsealed this week claim Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the nature of his contacts with foreign nationals, offered to set up a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Papadopoulos made the offer during the national security team meeting. 

Warner now says the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which he serves as vice chairman, still needs to get answers from high-ranking Trump officials with knowledge of previous Russian contacts, following the charges against Papadopoulos, as well as Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. 

"There's obviously enormous concerns as well, when the campaign manager and the deputy campaign manager are both indicted as well. I think there are many more chapters in this story to be told," said Warner.

He added that there are also still a "number" of "principals" that the committee would like to see and speak to, including President Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr. 

"We've talked to a lot of the folks who were in that so-called June 9th meeting. We've been holding off on the principals until we get all the preliminaries done," said Warner. 

He added, "There are other figures that are, are affiliated with the Trump organization that were at the senior-most level that we're going to want to talk to. We also want to continue to explore from a policy standpoint this whole question around social media."

This past week, Warner, along with his Senate and House colleagues, focused their ongoing probe on social media's involvement in the spread of disinformation and Russian-financed ads leading up to the election. He said that representatives for those sites have taken longer than he'd like to respond to the issue. 

"The fact that for a relatively small amount of money, $100,000-plus, plus a series of fake accounts, the Russians were able to contact or touch 126 million Americans with their fake news or their stories that were trying to sow discontent. And that was before even Facebook acknowledged the additional hits that were used on Instagram. It means there's a lot of stories there that need to continue to be unraveled," said Warner. 

He added, "You know, these are great, iconic American companies. They've changed our lives for the better. I want them to be successful. But there is also a dark underbelly that's been created. The Russians used it this, this past election."

Warner suggested that lawmakers need to take the "lightest touch possible" with regard to potential legislation in handling future missteps by social media sites and political ads. 

"As a pro-tech guy, somebody who was in the tech business longer than I've been in politics, I think we need to take the lightest touch possible. But the basic requirement that there ought to be the same disclosure for political ads on the internet that, that exists for ads that appear on your show I think makes sense," the senator added.

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital