According to a Washington Post report published Friday evening, U.S. officials are in possession of intercepts that included a Russian ambassador saying that he spoke with Jeff Sessions before the election about then-candidate Trump's campaign policies.
The intercepts were reportedly gained by U.S. intelligence agencies who monitor Russian officials' interactions communications in the United States and abroad.
One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.
Sessions' meetings with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were the cause of his infamous recusal from the investigations into Russian election meddling and alleged campaign collusion. Although he later said he never discussed any campaign policies in the meeting, he neglected to mention it to a confirmation committee.
The intercept of Kislyak's alleged comments would contradict his statement and seriously damage the reputation of the attorney general at a time when his place in the administration is already being questioned.
On Wednesday President Trump publicly scolded Sessions for his past decision to recuse himself. He appeared to be upset that the recusal, in his mind, led to the naming of Special Counsel Robert Mueller over the Russian investigations.
Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, said they would decline to comment on the story. "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," she said, adding that Sessions did not discuss election interference in the meeting.
Some Trump critics questioned whether the story was planted by the administration itself in order to provide a reason and cover for forcing Jeff Sessions out. "Sessions story is suspicious," tweeted former White House Ethics Lawyer Richard Painter. "Trump wants him fired for not recusing on Russia. Sonebody [sic] leaked intel to get him fired."
"Irresistible question," asked MSNBC host Joy Reid, "could Trump team have leaked the [K]islyak intercepts to push Sessions out after he failed to resign yesterday?" She referred to a report that White House officials were shocked that Sessions hadn't resigned after being berated by Trump in public.