Attorney General Jeff Sessions was “quite enthusiastic” about a potential Trump-Putin meeting during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
Papadopoulos was appearing for his first interview since being convicted of lying to special counsel Robert Mueller, for which he received a 14-day prison sentence. Appearing on ABC’s The Week, as reported by NBC News, Papadopoulos said that Sessions was excited at the prospect of a meeting between Trump and the Russian president.
He said that senior members of the Trump campaign were “fully aware” of his attempts to organize a Trump-Putin meeting, with Sessions actually looking forward to it. But Sessions, in an earlier testimony he gave to the Congress, pledged innocence on the whole matter, saying that he hardly knew Papadopoulos and had “pushed back” against the idea of organizing such a meeting.
When asked what he had to say about Sessions’ statement, Papadopoulos said his memory of the entire saga was very different from the attorney general’s.
“My recollection differs from Jeff Sessions,” he said.
Papadopoulos was also asked if he believed that Mueller’s investigation will finally unearth a conspiracy of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, to which the convicted former Trump adviser said that he can only hope his testimony helped the special counsel move in the right direction.
“All I can say is that my testimony might have helped move something towards that, but I have no idea,” he said.
George Papadopoulos says he explained to Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions during the 2016 meeting that he has "a connection that can establish a potential summit between candidate Trump and President Putin," adding Sessions was "quite enthusiastic." https://t.co/CCmqnDxBIz pic.twitter.com/52L9xE7moD— ABC News (@ABC) September 9, 2018
Papadopoulos remembered the exact day of the meeting when he first brought up the idea of a potential meeting between candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although he claimed that Trump appeared to sit on the fence by not committing himself either way, Sessions was particularly enthused about the whole idea.
“Candidate Trump at the time, he nodded at me, I don’t think he was committed either way. He was open to the idea and he deferred of course to then-senior Sen. Jeff Sessions, who I remember being quite enthusiastic about hosting,” Papadopoulos told The Week on Sunday.
The former campaign adviser also claimed that then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and senior aide Sam Clovis were also pleased with his efforts to set up a meeting through a Russian operative who worked as a professor.
“I actively sought to leverage my contacts with the professor to host this meeting,” he said. “The campaign was fully aware of what I was doing.”
Papadopoulos finally said that he was “remorseful” for how things had turned out, but claimed that he had never done anything without the knowledge of senior Trump campaign officials.