An American lobbyist working for the Russian government says he attended two dinners hosted by then-Senator Jeff Sessions during the summer of 2016, just when the presidential campaign was at a fever-pitch. If true, the revelation would contradict Sessions’ sworn Senate testimony where he said he “[didn’t] believe” he had been in contact with any Russia-related operatives, which includes “any American lobbyist or agent of any Russian company” during the 2016 election.
The lobbyist, Richard Burt, told The Guardian he could confirm that he had contacts with Sessions at the time.
“I did attend two dinners with groups of former Republican foreign policy officials and Senator Sessions,” Burt said, adding that he “did not know” if Session knew he was a lobbyist for the Russian government.
From The Guardian:
Several media reports published before Trump’s election in November noted that Burt advised then candidate Trump on his first major foreign policy speech, a role that brought him into contact with Sessions personally.
Burt, who previously served on the advisory board of Alfa Capital Partners, a private equity fund where Russia’s Alfa Bank was an investor and last year was lobbying on behalf of a pipeline company that is now controlled by Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled energy conglomerate, first told Politico in October that he had been invited to two dinners that were hosted by Sessions last summer, at the height of the presidential campaign.
During a Senate hearing this week, John McCain asked Sessions if he had “any contacts with any representative, including any American lobbyist or agent of any Russian company” during the 2016 campaign, Sessions replied, “I don’t believe so.”
It’s assumed that when former FBI Director James Comey testified last month that he always knew Sessions would have to recuse himself from he Russia investigation. Although he didn’t provide details related to that sentiment, it’s likely that he was referring to these contacts.
While Burt has not played a central role in the FBI and congressional investigation, Sessions’ response about his dealings with American lobbyists – which appears to contradict previous reports that Burt and Sessions communicated during the campaign – could invite more scrutiny of the attorney general’s testimony.
It is also possible that Sessions was not fully aware of Burt’s lobbying history, although Burt’s affiliation with Russian interests is fairly well known in Washington circles.
Read the Guardian’s full report here.
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