According to former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, campaign associate-turned-attorney general Jeff Sessions was “enthusiastic” about a proposed summit between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin when Padadopoulos raised the possibility during the campaign.
Papadopoulos’ claim contradicts what Sessions has said about the matter. Sessions told Congress under oath in November that he “pushed back” against the proposal.
“I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government or any other foreign government,” Sessions said.
Sessions “enthusiastic” about Trump-Putin meeting
Papadopoulos told ABC’s This Week that he mentioned the possibility of facilitating a Trump-Putin meeting at a huddle of foreign policy advisers in March 2016. Papadopoulos, who was a foreign policy aide to the campaign, said that Trump was present at the meeting and merely nodded in a non-committal way, but Sessions lit up at the prospect.
“I explained to them that I come from a think tank background and I work in the energy industry, but I do have a connection that can establish a potential summit between candidate Trump and President Putin,” Papadopoulos said. “[Trump] was open to the idea. And he deferred, of course, to then-senior Senator Jeff Sessions, who I remember being quite enthusiastic.”
Papadopoulos said that he and Sessions have different memories of what took place. According to Papadopoulos, Sessions, who was then an Alabama senator and a campaign adviser to Trump, was “quite enthusiastic.”
“All I can say is, my recollection differs from his at this point,” Papadopoulos said. “I don’t think [Trump] was committed either way. He was open to the idea and he deferred [to Sessions].”
Campaign “fully aware”
Papadopoulos was the first Trump associate to be charged with a crime as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He pleaded guilty in October 2017 to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with a professor who promised dirt on the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Papadopoulos was sentenced on Friday to 14 days in jail for the charge.
According to investigators, Papadopoulos’ contact with the professor came to their attention after they received an alert from an Australian diplomat who said the Trump campaign aide drunkenly bragged to him about the offer at a London bar in May 2016.
The former campaign adviser said that he did not recall telling anyone on the campaign about the offer of dirt from the professor, but that the campaign was “fully aware” of his efforts to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin. He said that he mentioned the idea to former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was recently convicted of fraud, but he wasn’t interested.
President Trump has often bristled against Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe as Attorney General. If Papadopoulos’ account is true, then there might be more to Sessions’ recusal than meets the eye.