For an Administration that has long complained about the effort of “the deep state” to undermine President Trump, the most recent leak detailed in the Washington Post will confirm an openly hostile intent by people within the intelligence community. The Post published accounts of how Russia’s ambassador to Washington Sergey Kislyak told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters with then Sen. Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race. If true, the account would conflict with Sessions earlier denials.
The leak detailed two conversations with Sessions that were intercepted by U.S. intelligence operations. Sessions previously failed to recall meetings with Kislyak who was one of the Russians in the controversial meeting with Trump in the Oval Office the day after the termination of Comey. Sessions has insisted that he never discussed campaign issues with the Russians. Sessions said in March that “I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.”
An official is quoted as accusing Sessions of misleading Congress on his dealings with the Russians. Current and former U.S. officials said that assertion is at odds with Kislyak’s accounts of conversations during two encounters over the course of the campaign, one in April ahead of Trump’s first major foreign policy speech and another in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.
The conversations do not appear to have involved Sessions directly but are merely the account of Kislyak. Moreover, there may be a question as to whether Kislyak overstated his conversations or intentionally made the statements with the knowledge that he was being monitored. However the article also quotes officials as saying that Kislyak has conveyed accurate accounts during these calls.
The story will likely raise new issues for Sessions, who has already recused himself from the investigation. The Justice Department however has blasted the report as unsubstantiated. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores issued the following statement:
“Obviously I cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that the Washington Post has not seen and that has not been provided to me, but the Attorney General stands by his testimony from just last month before the Senate Intelligence Committee when he specifically addressed this and said that he ‘never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election.'”