Donald Trump heads for the White House after returning from his 12-day tour of Asia.
Donald Trump heads for the White House after returning from his 12-day tour of Asia. ANDREW HARRER / POOL

Now that he's reminded, Sessions remembers Russian link

US ATTORNEY General Jeff Sessions has said he does now recall a March 2016 meeting with George Papadopoulos, a member of the Trump campaign team who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russians.

But he did not have a clear memory of what Mr Papadopoulos said, Mr Sessions testified before the House Judiciary Committee.

Mr Sessions denied he lied last month when he told a Senate panel he knew of nobody in the Trump campaign who had contacts with Russians during the run-up to the 2016 election.

"I did not, and I'm not aware of anyone else that did, and I don't believe it happened,” Mr Sessions said at the time.

Court records later showed Mr Sessions led a March 2016 meeting in which George Papadopoulos, who was part of the campaign's foreign policy council, discussed his Russian ties and suggested setting up a meeting between Mr Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news reports,” he told the House committee.

"I do now recall the March 2016 meeting at Trump Hotel that Mr Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting.”

"In all of my testimony,” he added, "I can only do my best to answer all of your questions as I understand them and to the best of my memory. But I will not accept and reject accusations that I have ever lied under oath. That is a lie.”

Mr Sessions testified that was still did not remember the details regarding what Mr Papadopoulos had proposed. But he did try to make one thing clear: he said he rejected Mr Papadopoulos's suggestion of a Trump-Putin meeting, because he thought "it may have been improper”.

"After reading his account, and to the best of my recollection, 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,” Mr Sessions asserted.

"But I did not recall this event, which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago, and would gladly have reported it had I remembered it, because I pushed back against his suggestion.”

Mr Sessions also said he does not remember speaking to Carter Page during the 2016 presidential campaign about a trip that the former foreign policy campaign adviser took to Russia.

Earlier this month, Mr Page told the House Intelligence Committee that he had informed some members of the Trump campaign about the trip, including Mr Sessions. He said he mentioned in passing to Sessions that he was visiting Russia and the then-Senator had no reaction.

Mr Page's trip has drawn scrutiny in inquiries into Russia's meddling in the 2016 US election. Mr Sessions said on Tuesday that he doesn't challenge Mr Page's recollection, but doesn't remember the conversation.

"All of you have been in a campaign. But most of you have not participated in a presidential campaign. And none of you had a part in the Trump campaign,” Mr Sessions said.

"It was a brilliant campaign in many ways. But it was a form of chaos every day from day one. We travelled all the time, sometimes to several places in one day. Sleep was in short supply. And I was still a full-time Senator keeping a very full schedule during this time.”

The House's routine oversight hearing was scheduled as Mr Sessions works to reshape the Justice Department with a sharp focus on immigration, drugs, gangs and violent crime.

In the background, special counsel Robert Mueller - appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein - is conducting a probe into alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

- Alexandra Wilts, The Independent

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