After his public testimony this morning, former FBI Director James Comey also met in a closed hearing with Senators. According to an anonymous source, Comey alluded to a possible undisclosed meeting between then-Senator Jeff Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. From CNN:
The information is based in part on Russian-to-Russian intercepts where the meeting was discussed, three sources familiar with the information tell CNN.
But the sources said it is possible the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, was exaggerating the extent of the encounter.
Comey’s public testimony really didn’t do much to help the Democrats’ collusion-with-Russia theory. In fact, parts of Comey’s testimony undercut it, so much so that even Chris Matthews is ready to admit as much. So what is going on here? Are Democrats trying to add fuel to a sputtering fire? I think it’s probably simpler than that.
Sessions previously failed to disclose two meetings with the Ambassador during his confirmation hearing. That oversight led Senator Al Franken to claim Sessions had perjured himself. Sen. Franken and Sen. Patrick Leahy also sent a letter to then-Director Comey asking him to investigate the possibility of a third meeting between Sessions and Kislyak. And it seems the letter worked. Last month, CNN reported the FBI was indeed investigating the possibility a third, undisclosed meeting had taken place:
Investigators on the Hill are requesting additional information, including schedules from Sessions, a source with knowledge tells CNN. They are focusing on whether such a meeting took place April 27, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC, where then-candidate Donald Trump was delivering his first major foreign policy address. Prior to the speech, then-Sen. Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak attended a small VIP reception with organizers, diplomats and others…
The FBI is looking into whether there was an additional private meeting at the Mayflower the same day, sources said. Neither Hill nor FBI investigators have yet concluded whether a private meeting took place — and acknowledge that it is possible any additional meeting was incidental.
Even if the FBI finds this third encounter did take place, it won’t prove Sessions was relaying instructions from Trump to Russian hackers. The goal here is proably much simpler. Democrats were already pushing hard for Sessions to resign based on the previous oversight and their base was behind them. If they could establish one more undisclosed meeting, it would revive their campaign to force Sessions out on grounds that wasn’t truthful in his confirmation hearing. This is less about the collusion narrative and more about Democrats looking to collect a scalp.