Last Monday, the first charges to stem from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump team were unsealed. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime Trump and Manafort aide Rick Gates were formally charged with offenses ranging from money laundering to conspiracy against the U.S.
Separate from but concurrent to Mueller’s case against Manafort and Gates, a third Trump aide — George Papadopoulos — was revealed last Monday to have pleaded guilty in early August to lying to the FBI.
He lied about the timing of his contact with a Russian professor promising dirt on Hillary Clinton; he said the contact came before he joined the Trump team, but the professor only wanted to talk to him because of his connection to Donald Trump.
The story behind Papadopoulos’ guilty plea raises a big problem for the Trump team.
At a March 31, 2016, meeting attended by both the then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and the then-U.S. Senator from Alabama Jeff Sessions, Papadopoulos suggested that Trump meet secretly with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Papadopoulos insisted that he could set such a meeting up, but Sessions reportedly shot down the idea, although the president apparently remained interested.
Check out an image of the meeting below.
The problem here is that Sessions, who presently serves as U.S. Attorney General, has insisted that he had no knowledge of any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. That assertion blatantly contradicts the circumstances surrounding Papadopoulos’ guilty plea.
Now, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham wants Sessions to come back before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer for himself.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Graham told host Chris Wallace:
‘He probably should come back, and answer the question yet again “did you know anything about an effort by the Trump campaign to meet with Russia, not just collude with Russia.” This is getting a bit old with Jeff Sessions. I asked a question “did anyone ever talk to you about talking with the Russians?” I didn’t ask about collusions. So we now know that somebody at a meeting, Mr. Papadopoulos, raised the idea of meeting with Putin.’
This isn’t even the first time that the nation’s top law enforcement official has been revealed to have lied to Congress.
When pressed during his confirmation hearings on the question of whether or not he had ever met with Russian officials, he insisted he had not — but that was a lie. In fact, Sessions met multiple times with the now-former Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak.
The Attorney General’s attempted defense once his lies were uncovered was to insist that he took the question to be only covering his direct work for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
As a result of the revelations about Sessions’ meetings with Kislyak, the Attorney General recused himself from the Russia investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who took over for Sessions, eventually appointed Special Counsel Mueller — much to the very public chagrin of Donald Trump.
Graham isn’t alone in his calls for Sessions to come back before Congress to answer for himself.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein made similar comments while appearing Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, telling Jake Tapper of Sessions’ past testimony:
‘I’m not going to say whether it was a lie or not. I think he should come back and clarify it. At this stage, he’s got to narrow his recollections. When he comes before the committee again, he has to be precise, and it has to be accurate.’
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) November 5, 2017
We’ll have to wait and see if Sessions ever does come back before Congress.
Featured Image via Screenshot from the Video.