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Sessions responds to Papadopoulos’ claim about his behavior during the campaign

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The Department of Justice made it clear in a statement issued Friday to CNN that Attorney General Jeff Sessions stands “by his testimony” that not once during the 2016 election did he speak with anyone about meeting with Russian operatives, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The statement was issued after President Donald Trump’s disgraced former campaign aide George Papadopoulos doubled down on the claim he’d once broached the topic of a potential meeting with both Sessions and then-GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“I sat down and, you know, I looked at the candidate,” Papadopoulos said to CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview that day, describing the moment he allegedly announced the idea to both Trump and his campaign staff.

“I looked at candidate Trump directly in his eyes and said, ‘I can do this for you if it’s in your interest and if it’s in the campaign’s interest.’ And the collective energy in the room, of course, there were some dissenters, but the collective energy in the room seem to be interested.”

He added that whereas Trump gave him “sort of a nod,” then-Sen. Sessions responded with enthusiasm.

“My recollection was that the senator was actually enthusiastic about a meeting between the candidate and President Putin,” Papadopoulos said. “I remember him being enthusiastic about a potential meeting between the candidate and President Putin after I raised the question.”

This claim belies what Sessions said when he testified under oath to Congress in June of 2017.

“Let me state this clearly: I have never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election. Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign,” he said.

“I was your colleague in this body for 20 years, and the suggestion that I participated in any collusion or that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor for over 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie.”

Papadopoulos’ interview with Tapper aired hours after a federal judge sentenced him to 14 days in jail for lying to the FBI about the extent of his communications and contacts with Russian operatives during the election two years ago.

The claim regarding Trump and Sessions was first issued last week in court it what appeared to be a desperate attempt to avoid being sent to prison for a lengthy bid.

“While some in the room rebuffed George’s offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it,” a court filing submitted last week by Papadopoulos’ attorney read. “George’s giddiness over Mr. Trump’s recognition was prominent during the days that followed.”

One thing Papadopoulos did admit to Tapper Friday was that neither Trump nor Sessions had been aware that his Russian contacts had dirt on then-Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“As far as I remember, I absolutely did not share this information with anyone on the campaign,” he said. “I might have, but I have no recollection of doing so. I can’t guarantee. All I can say is, my memory is telling me that I never shared it with anyone on the campaign.”

Vivek Saxena

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