15 Nov 2017

Sessions now recalls Russia links discussed

9:22 am on 15 November 2017

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he now recalls a meeting with then presidential candidate Donald Trump and aides in which high-level Russian connections were discussed.

Giving testimony to the House Judiciary Committee today he insisted he had not lied.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the House Judiciary Committee hearing.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo: AFP

Mr Sessions had said during his January senate confirmation hearing that he was unaware of communications between the campaign and Russian officials. 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.

The attorney-general told the committee he recalled the March 2016 meeting where former foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos was present.

"But I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said during that meeting."

Mr Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, told the Trump campaign meeting that he had connections with Moscow and could help arrange a meeting between Mr Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to court documents.

Mr Sessions told the committee he only remembered the meeting involving Mr Papadopoulos after reading news reports about it and had "no clear recollection" of what was said.

"I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorised to represent the campaign with the Russian government, or any other foreign government for that matter."

He said he would have "gladly" reported the incident if he had remembered it, "because I pushed back against his suggestion, that I thought may have been improper".

Mr Sessions also defended his memory and fiercely denied any accusations that he had deliberately lied under oath in his previous testimony.

He said that while the Trump presidential campaign had been "brilliant" it was also "a form of chaos every day" in which "sleep was in short supply".

"I have been asked to remember details from a year ago - such as who I saw on what day, in what meeting, and who said what [and] when," he told the committee.

He said he could only answer questions to the best of his memory, "but I will not accept - and reject - accusations that I have ever lied".

Mr Sessions, as the then senator for Alabama, was one of Mr Trump's earliest supporters in his bid for the White House and served on his election campaign team.

Details of the meeting emerged in documents released by special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Accusations of collusion with Russia during the election campaign have dogged Trump's first 10 months in office, setting off the investigation by Mr Mueller and several congressional probes.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election to help Mr Trump's campaign. The Kremlin denies that and Mr Trump says there was no collusion between his campaign and Russian officials.

Separately, Mr Sessions told the committee a decision on whether to review Hillary Clinton's alleged misconduct over handling of classified material would come soon.

"You can be sure that they will be done without political influence and they will be done correctly and properly," he said.

- BBC / Reuters