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Ethics Lawyer: Sessions Could Be Jailed Over Russia

| by Lauren Briggs

Richard Painter, who served as former President George W. Bush's White House lawyer from 2005 to 2007, said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions could "go to jail" for not disclosing his communications with Russia when asked during his confirmation hearing in Congress.

"Misleading the Senate in sworn testimony about one own contacts with the Russians is a good way to go to jail," Painter, who is now a University of Minnesota law professor, tweeted on March 1. "I spent two hours with the Congressional Black Caucus today discussing Russian attacks on the US. Does AG Sessions have anything to say?"

Sessions reportedly spoke twice in 2016 with Russia's ambassadors to the U.S., according to The Washington Post. One of those conversations occurred in September, during what some officials believe was a Russian cyber campaign to influence the U.S. election. The other interaction took place in July. Sessions was a senior member of the Armed Services Committee at the time.

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Sessions was asked about the matter during his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.

"I'm not aware of any of those activities," he told Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota at the time, when asked what he would do if he discovered any evidence that anyone connected to the Trump campaign communicated with Russia, according to The Post. "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians."

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked Sessions in writing whether he has "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 simply answered, "No."

Sessions's spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said that "there was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer" and that he did not consider the questions relevant.

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"He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign -- not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee," added Flores.

However, the new information has several top Democrats calling on Sessions to step down.

"If it's true that Attorney General Sessions met with the Russian ambassador in the midst of the campaign, then I am very troubled that his response to my questioning during his confirmation hearing was, at best, misleading," Franken said in a statement to The Post. "It is now clearer than ever that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately."

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said at a March 2 press conference that "it would be better for the country if he’d resign," according to The Huffington Post.

Sources: Washington Post, Huffington Post, Richard Painter/Twitter (2) / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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