Democrats were aghast after learning Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice, as a senator, with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. without telling Congress at his confirmation hearing – but it turns out Sergey Kislyak is no stranger to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The longtime Russian ambassador met with seven then-Democratic senators in a single sit-down in 2013, among other discussions – and reportedly was a frequent visitor to the Obama White House.
FactCheck.org still labeled McCaskill’s claim as “false.”
McCaskill’s 2013 meeting was the one involving a total of seven Democratic senators. She joined several Republicans and six other Democratic senators that day in an appeal to Kislyak for Moscow to reverse its blockade of U.S. adoptions of Russian children.
Other Democratic senators in that meeting were: Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
Klobuchar said in a statement afterward that she was able to tell Kislyak the stories of families she met in Minnesota. Landrieu is no longer a senator after losing her seat in 2014.
For longtime Washington officials, Kislyak would indeed be a familiar face. He’s been the ambassador to the U.S. since 2008, and served in various posts representing the former Soviet Union in the 1980s.
“I’ve met with the Russian ambassador with a group, in my capacity, with a group of other senators,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told CNN. “That’s in my official capacity. That’s nothing. That’s my job.”
Republican Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, defending Sessions, said he’s spoken with the Russian ambassador as well.
Meanwhile, The Daily Caller reported that Kislyak is listed as visiting the White House at least 22 times between 2009 and 2016. They likely were a mix of personal meetings and group visits. Roughly half of the visits involved broader receptions with other visitors.
Sessions, at his press conference, downplayed any intrigue behind his meetings with the ambassador last year, including one in September at his office. He said they discussed terrorism and Ukraine, among other topics.
Sessions, in trying to tamp down the controversy, announced he would recuse himself from any investigations pertaining to the campaign, amid bipartisan pressure to separate himself from probes regarding Russian meddling in the race.
But some Democrats are still calling for his resignation, and a special prosecutor.
“It is insufficient for Attorney General Sessions to recuse himself from any matters concerning the presidential campaign. He must resign,” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said in a statement late Thursday.