Claim: Democrats claim that Jeff Session committed perjury in his testimony in his confirmation hearing to Congress.
On March 1, 2017, the Washington Post reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had met with Russian envoys last year. The significance of these meetings was that Sessions had said under oath that he did not have any communications with the Russians. The following is the transcript of the relevant question and answer.
Franken: CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week, that included information that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” These documents also allegedly say “there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” Again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out, so you know. But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?
Sessions: Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.
Franken: Very well.
In addition to his testimony in Congress, Senator Patrick Leahy asked Sessions in a written question, “Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” To which Sessions responded, “No.” In a statement issued by Sessions, he said, “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
The first meeting was in July 2016 at the Republican National Convention. Sessions gave a speech at an event for ambassadors. The meeting was a chance encounter along with other ambassadors who attended the event. The second event was at his office in September 2016. While the Justice Department disclosed that there might have been some discussion about the election, the main purpose of the meeting was to discuss the relationship between the United States and Russia. In the meeting, Sessions was acting in his capacity as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Such meetings are common and he had similar meetings with ambassadors of other countries.
In order for someone to commit perjury, the person has to intentionally state something that is not truthful while under oath. Even though the meetings seem to contradict Sessions’ testimony to Congress, there does not appear to be any intention to mislead or lie. One meeting was a chance encounter and the other was done in his capacity as a Senator. As this was not a case of perjury, this claim is false.
References and Further Reading
- Attorney General Confirmation Hearing, Day 1 Part 1
- Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose
- Sessions did not disclose meetings with Russian ambassador
- Key G.O.P. Lawmakers Say Jeff Sessions Should Recuse Himself From Russia Inquiry
- By Jeff Sessions’ Standard for Lying Under Oath, Jeff Sessions Lied Under Oath
- Spicer says Sessions was ‘100 percent straight’ on Russia meetings