Russia: Furor over Sessions meetings with ambassador 'a witch hunt'

USA TODAY - The Kremlin agreed Friday with President Trump's assertion that the furor over meetings between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, was a "witch hunt," Russian state media reported.

The remark by Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, came after sharp criticism in the U.S. of Sessions for failing to disclose meetings with Kislyak last year, when he was a senator and President Trump’s campaign adviser.

Trump said Thursday that there was a "total witch hunt" against Sessions.

"Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional," Trump tweeted.

"The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election, and now they have lost their grip on reality. The real story is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total "witch hunt!"" he added.

"After President Trump’s comprehensive definition, we have nothing to add," Peskov said Friday, according to Russia's TASS news agency.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov echoed Trump and Peskov earlier. "I can cite the media that say all this is very much reminiscent of a witch hunt and the McCarthyism era which we all thought was long gone," he said, according to TASS.

In the 1950s, Sen. Joseph McCarthy led a hunt for communist traitors he believed were working in the government and the army.

"As for accusations against Kislyak and those he met with… Our ambassador is accused of meeting with the U.S. politicians who opposed the Obama administration. This is the essence of the accusations, to be honest," Lavrov added.

Sessions stepped aside Thursday from overseeing the continuing FBI investigation into Russia’s interference in last year’s election.

Phone conversations between Kislyak and Gen. Michael Flynn before Trump’s inauguration Jan. 20 got Flynn fired as national security adviser after less than a month in office.

J.D. Gordon and Carter Page, two other Trump advisers, also spoke with Kislyak at the diplomacy conference connected to the Republican National Convention in July, where he met with Sessions.  It's unknown what they discussed.

There have been repeated denials by Trump officials that his campaign had contact with officials representing the Russian government.

Contributing: Steve Reilly, Oren Dorell

Copyright 2017 USA TODAY


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