Washington (CNN)Attorney General Jeff Sessions is once again under scrutiny on Capitol Hill regarding his candor about Russia and the Trump campaign amid revelations that he rejected a suggestion to convene a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump last year.
Sessions under renewed scrutiny on Capitol Hill
According to court filings unsealed this week, Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos suggested at a March 2016 meeting that he could use his connections to set up a meeting between Putin and Trump with the then-GOP candidate's national security team. An Instagram picture on Trump's account shows Sessions attended the meeting at which Papadopoulos made the suggestion.
After Trump declined to rule out the idea, Sessions weighed in and rejected the proposed meeting, according to a person who attended.
But Sessions, who was a top surrogate for Trump during the campaign, did not disclose these discussions despite a persistent set of questions from Democrats and some Republicans about Russia during multiple hearings on Capitol Hill. The new information is renewing attention to how forthcoming Sessions has been with Congress.
There is interest from Democrats on both the Senate intelligence and judiciary committees for Sessions to formally clarify his remarks made before both committees given what's now known about his interactions with Papadopoulos, a Senate aide told CNN. The source said the request for clarification could take several forms, such as having Sessions testify again or submitting a clarification in writing, but that has not yet been determined.
On Wednesday, lawmakers from both parties said Sessions needs to explain the discrepancies. And Democrats were sharply critical.
"Jeff Sessions concealed his meetings with the Russians and he had an obligation to be more forthcoming about meetings that involved Papadopoulos," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Senate judiciary committee.
Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat who sits on the Senate intelligence committee, said that despite Sessions' testimony before the panel earlier this year, "it turns out he was at this meeting with George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos proposed meeting with Putin and Trump. He didn't disclose that to the committee."
Heinrich added it calls into question "whether he is being honest and forthright with the committee and what does that mean for the highest law enforcement officer in the country?"
Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 in Republican leadership who serves on the intelligence and judiciary panels, said he was unaware of Sessions' attendance at that meeting until now.
He added: "I certainly think it's a legitimate area of inquiry" for lawmakers to pursue.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said Thursday he was still learning all the details about the Papadopoulos matter.
Asked if Sessions should amend his testimony before his committee, Grassley told CNN: "I'm looking into it."
The Justice Department did not comment.
But a source familiar with Sessions' thinking pointed out that others in the room recall that Sessions "shut down" talk of a Putin meeting and that Papadopoulos "didn't have a lot of credibility." The conversation moved on to other topics and Papadopoulos did not leave a "lasting impression" with Sessions, the source said.
The source added that Sessions "has no clear recollection" of Papadopoulos and any further interactions with him, even though two were seated next to each other at a second meeting of Trump's foreign policy team at the Capitol Hill Club steps from the House.