Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is looking into whether President Donald Trump or anyone else sought to obstruct a federal inquiry into connections between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian operatives.
Sessions met with Mueller’s investigators for several hours last week, according to a Justice Department spokesperson. It’s unclear where the interview took place.
Nevertheless, the sit-down with the nation’s top cop comes nearly three months after the special counsel directed the broader Justice Department to turn over a wide array of documents related to the probe.
In particular, Mueller’s investigators were keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and Sessions’ earlier decision to recuse himself from the entire matter, ABC News was told at the time.
Meanwhile, Democrats on Capitol Hill have hammered Sessions for denying contacts with Russian officials and telling Congress — under oath — in an Oct. 18 hearing when asked by then-Sen. Al Franken, that he was not aware of nor did he believe any Trump campaign surrogate ever communicated with Russian operatives or intermediaries.
But Sessions has since acknowledged meeting with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign. And in the first known charges brought by Mueller, announced in October, former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos admitted he told Sessions and Trump during a 2016 meeting that he was working with Russians to orchestrate a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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Some Democrats accused Sessions of lying to lawmakers, though he has vehemently denied the charge, citing a memory lapse due in part by the “chaos” of the campaign.
At a House Judiciary committee hearing last November Sessions vigorously disputed that he has ever been intentionally deceptive with Congress or the public when it comes to his Russia related dealings. “I will not accept, and reject, accusations that I have ever lied,” Sessions said then.
Sessions told lawmakers he now remembers dismissing Papadopoulos’ proposal during the meeting last year.
Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian nationals.
Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein played key roles in Comey’s removal. And Sessions has since faced withering criticism from Trump over his recusal and Rosenstein’s subsequent appointment of Mueller.
Rosenstein was interviewed by Mueller last summer, and he still maintains final supervision over the Mueller probe.
Charles Dharapak/APRobert Mueller is seated before President Barack Obama and FBI Director James Comey at an installation ceremony at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2013.
Trump has openly expressed disdain for the federal investigation, and since his days on the campaign trail, he has questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s unanimous conclusion that Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.
To publicly bolster Trump’s decision on Comey, the White House released two memos written separately by Sessions and Rosenstein, with both faulting Comey for his handling of the FBI’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.
Meanwhile, Trump has taken aim at Sessions for the recusal, launching such biting personal attacks months ago that it appeared that Sessions would not last the summer as attorney general.
At one point, Trump told reporters he wouldn’t have nominated Sessions to run the Justice Department had he known Sessions would give up oversight of the investigation.
In July, Trump posted a tweet demanding to know why “our beleaguered” attorney general wasn’t “looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations.”
A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment about Sessions’ interview, which was first reported by The New York Times.