Congressional Democrats, including Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, are calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign following reports that he was in touch with Russia’s ambassador twice during last year’s presidential campaign. Pointing to Sessions’s failure to disclose these contacts during his recent confirmation hearings, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, among others, is accusing him of lying under oath.
The available facts suggest otherwise. According to the Justice Department, the former Alabama senator met briefly with a group of ambassadors following his address at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation in July, amid the Republican National Convention. In a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Sessions acknowledged also meeting with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak privately last September. Sessions maintains that he met Kislyak in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and that some of his senior aides were present. Meetings between senators and diplomatic officials are, of course, common: Missouri senator Clare McCaskill, who attacked Sessions on Twitter for the sit-down, has in the past publicized multiple visits of her own with the Russian ambassador.
It’s clear now that Sessions’s response to Franken was inaccurate, and the whole episode could have been avoided had Sessions been clearer up front. But the context makes it fairly clear that Sessions was denying coordination with the Russians about the presidential election. There is no indication that Sessions willfully misled the Congress; based on what we know so far, Democrats’ perjury accusations are fantasy.