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Trump, Sessions Russian Denials Now in Question

They attended meeting where adviser boasted of contacts; Trump wants focus on Clinton
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2017 9:41 AM CDT

(Newser) – A new story is emerging from the Robert Mueller moves earlier this week, one that could be bad news for President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Both have repeatedly denied personally knowing about any outreach between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials, but the newly unsealed court documents now call those denials into question. Meanwhile, Trump unleashed a new series of tweets again calling for investigators to look instead to the campaign of Hillary Clinton, especially in the wake of the new Donna Brazile allegations. Details and developments:

  • Boasts of Papadopoulos: The court documents reveal that campaign adviser George Papadopoulos boasted of his Russia contacts at a 2016 meeting attended by both Trump and Sessions. Papadopoulos even said he could arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, an idea immediately shot down by Sessions, reports the New York Times.
  • Trump reaction: The president "listened with interest," per the Times, which says the revelations "represent the first concrete evidence that Mr. Trump was personally told about ties between a campaign adviser and Russian officials." After his inauguration, Trump categorically denied knowing of any such contacts. On Friday, he told reporters, "I don't remember much about that meeting," per Politico. "It was a very unimportant meeting, took place a long time [ago]. Don't remember much about it."

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  • More Sessions trouble: Sessions appears to have heard about a possible Russia connection in another way. Former campaign adviser Carter Page told a congressional panel on Thursday that he mentioned to Sessions at one point during the campaign that he was traveling to Russia to give a speech. Page tells CNN this was no big deal. The trip was "completely unrelated to my limited volunteer role with the campaign and as I've done dozens of times throughout my life," he said. "Understandably, it was as irrelevant then as it is now."
  • Under oath: Because Sessions previously testified to Congress under oath that he knew of no connections between the campaign and Russian officials, Democratic senators are angry, and he may be summoned back to explain, reports Politico. "This is another example in an alarming pattern in which you, the nation’s top law enforcement official, apparently failed to tell the truth, under oath," Sen. Al Franken wrote in a letter to Sessions.
  • In defense: Trump attorney Ty Cobb and GOP senators say all this is being blown out of proportion. Cobb, for instance, says it's "ludicrous" that Papadopoulos, "a young unpaid volunteer," is being treated with such importance. "The evidence so far suggests he attended one meeting, said something about Russia and was immediately shut down by everyone in the room."

  • Don't expect perjury case: Senators may be looking into whether Sessions lied under oath, but a law professor at George Washington University doesn't see a perjury case emerging. "The clarity of the question and the answer could be easily challenged," Jonathan Turley tells Bloomberg. "It is rare to see cases for perjury to Congress generally because the exchanges are often imprecise or rather fluid in nature."
    Trump tweets: On Friday morning, the president sent out a series of tweets again saying the real focus should be on Clinton. He cited Brazile's upcoming book: "New Donna B book says she paid for and stole the Dem Primary," he tweeted. "What about the deleted E-mails, Uranium, Podesta, the Server," he wrote, adding: "People are angry. At some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper. The American public deserves it!"
  • More pressure: Trump amplified his demands on the Justice Department and the FBI to go after Clinton in a radio interview Thursday, reports the Washington Post. "Hopefully they are doing something and at some point, maybe we are going to all have it out," he said, adding that "the saddest thing is, because I am the president of the United States I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department" and the FBI. "I'm very frustrated by it."
(Read more Jeff Sessions stories.)

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