Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as an Alabama senator, spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said. He did not disclose the encounters when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of the Russian government during Sessions’s confirmation hearing, the Washington Post reports. He had a private conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.
The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has resisted calls to recuse himself. When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, the senator was a senior member of the Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. At his Jan. 10 confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign. “I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Sessions “must resign.”