WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will face a barrage of questions from Democrats in the House of Representatives on Tuesday over whether he lied about communications between President Donald Trump’s election campaign and Russian representatives.
Sessions is due to testify before the House Judiciary Committee for a routine oversight hearing, but Democrats on the panel will grill him about a series of statements he made to the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which he denied knowing about meetings between campaign aides and Russians.
“We intend to ask you about these inconsistencies,” the committee’s Democratic members said in a Nov. 7 letter to Sessions, who has recused himself from investigations into the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Moscow meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to help then-Republican candidate Donald Trump’s campaign. “We are providing you notice in advance because we expect you to respond.”
Sessions, a former U.S. Senator who was involved in Trump’s campaign, has repeatedly denied misleading Congress, saying his prior statements under oath were all true.
His testimony at his confirmation hearing in January and at a Senate Judiciary hearing in October was questioned after a special counsel last month unsealed charges against former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in the Russia-Trump probe.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied allegations of interfering in the U.S. election and Trump denies any collusion between his campaign and Russian officials.
In court records, prosecutors said Papadopoulos told a March 31, 2016 meeting of campaign officials that he had Russian connections and could help arrange a meeting with Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A photograph posted on Trump’s Instagram account shows that Papadopoulos, Sessions and Trump were all seated at the same table in that meeting.
According to a source familiar with the matter, Sessions shut down Papadopoulos’ idea of engaging with Russia, and the Trump administration has played down Papadopoulos’ role in the campaign, saying he was nothing more than a low level volunteer.
But the court documents, and Papadopoulos’ guilty plea for lying to the FBI over his contacts with Russian officials, put new focus on Sessions’ earlier testimony.
Sessions said during January’s confirmation hearing that he was unaware of communications between the campaign and Russia.
After the hearing, news reports emerged showing that Sessions had himself met with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak at least twice in 2016.
Under pressure, Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, a decision that later helped pave the way for the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the investigation.
In another Senate hearing last month, Sessions testified he had no improper involvement with Russians and was not aware of anyone else from the campaign who did.
“Attorney General Sessions has misrepresented the truth … time and time again,” Al Franken, a Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee member, said on the Senate floor on Monday.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Grant McCool