Jeff Sessions discussed Trump campaign with Russian ambassador report

US intelligence intercepts show Sergey Kislyak told supervisors he discussed Trump campaign and policy issues during meetings with attorney general

Jeff Sessions discussed Donald Trumps White House bid with the Russian ambassador to Washington in 2016, according to reported US intelligence intercepts which contradict the US attorney generals assurances that the campaign was not discussed.

Sergey Kislyak told his superiors in Moscow he talked about campaign-related matters and significant policy issues during two meetings with Sessions, according to current and former US intelligence officials, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

The ambassadors accounts of the meetings which US spy agencies intercepted clash with those of Sessions and pile fresh pressure on the attorney general just days after the president publicly criticised him.

Sessions was a senator and senior foreign policy adviser to Trump during the presidential race. After being tapped to run the justice department, he initially failed to disclose his encounters with Kislyak and then said the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

Jeff Sessions denies contact with Russians during Senate hearing archive video

The Post cited an unnamed US official who called Sessions statements misleading and contradicted by other evidence. An unnamed former official said the intelligence indicated Sessions and Kislyak had substantive discussions on matters including Trumps positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for bilateral relations in a Trump administration, the paper reported.

The officials acknowledged that the ambassador could have mischaracterised the meetings in his briefings to Moscow.

The attorney general has repeatedly said he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials and that it was in his capacity as a senator, not a Trump surrogate, that he met Kislyak. I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign, he said in March.

The apparent discrepancy with Kislyaks version of events capped a torrid week for Sessions. Trump said in an interview published on Wednesday that he regretted appointing him after Sessions recused himself from investigations into links with the Trump campaign and Russia.

The president, marking six months in office, appeared to be venting concern that the investigation headed by Robert Mueller was reportedly expanding to include his business ties with Russia.

Sessions told reporters on Thursday that he would continue in his job as long as that is appropriate. He made no immediate response to the Posts article on Friday.

However in a statement, a justice department spokeswoman told the paper: 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.

In a separate development on Friday, the Senate judiciary committee said that next week it would interview the presidents son, Donald Trump Jr, and his former campaign chief Paul Manafort behind closed doors rather than in public testimony, as originally planned.

Both men agreed agreed to negotiate to provide the committee with documents and be interviewed by committee members and staff prior to a public hearing, the committee chairman, Chuck Grassley, and its ranking member, Dianne Feinstein, said in a statement. Therefore, we will not issue subpoenas for them tonight requiring their presence at Wednesdays hearing but reserve the right to do so in the future.

The report about the Russian ambassador capped another tumultuous day in Washington.

Sean Spicer resigned as White House press secretary, ending a controversial tenure as the administrations public face. He stepped down after the president tapped Anthony Scaramucci, a New York financier and longtime Trump supporter, as the new White House communications director.

In an interview with Sean Hannity due to be broadcast on Fox News on Friday night, Spicer said he left on good terms with the president.

I just thought it was in the best interest of our communications department, of our press organization to not have too many cooks in the kitchen … He wanted to bring some new folks in to help rev up the communications operation, and after reflection, my decision was to recommend to the president that I give Anthony and Sarah a clean slate to start from.

Asked about the Saturday Night Live spoofs Melissa McCarthy played him as a raging, foaming attack dog Spicer replied: I think that there were parts of it that were funny, but theres a lot of it that was over the line. It wasnt funny. It was stupid, or silly, or malicious. But there were some skits on late-night television that I did crack up at. So sometimes it can be funny. Some of the memes you have to crack up about. But sometimes it goes from funny to mean.

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