Attorney General Jeff Sessions confronted Rep. Ted Lieu (D., Calif.) during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday after Lieu accused him of lying about communicating with foreign officials.
Sessions had stated on his security clearance form that he had not "had any contact with a foreign government, its establishment…or its representatives" in the past seven years. He, however, did meet with foreign officials during the course of his duties as a sitting U.S. senator. Sessions noted he in fact met with many officials from many countries.
When asked specifically about the security clearance form, Sessions said he answered "no" to the question about having contact with foreign officials because he was told members of Congress did not need to disclose meetings that occurred as part of their official duties.
"Were you lying then when you filled out the form, or are you lying now?" Lieu asked.
"What I was told by my executive assistant when we did this form earlier, and then again when I was nominated for attorney general, [is] that the FBI authority says members of Congress, and effectively, government officials meeting people on an official basis, you were not required to list all these contacts," Sessions said.
The attorney general also mentioned that when he met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on official business, he in fact had an argument about Ukraine and confronted Kislyak over Russia's actions in Ukraine. He said it was nothing to do with the 2016 election.
Lieu again made the allegation that in at least one way, Sessions had lied. The representative referenced Sessions' comment from earlier this year during his confirmation hearing when he said he had not met with Russians. Democrats accused Sessions of lying, but Sessions has continually maintained he did not lie, and said his answer was specifically in response to a "shocking" suggestion that he routinely met with Russian officials in an effort to collude with Russia during the 2016 election. Sessions, as a result, took offense to Lieu's continued accusation.
"I hope the congressman knows, and I hope all of you know that my answer to that question, ‘I did not meet with the Russians,' was explicitly responding to the shocking suggestion that I as a [Trump campaign] surrogate was meeting on a continuing basis with Russian officials, and the implication was, to impact the campaign in some sort of nefarious way," Sessions said.
And all I did was meet in my office with the ambassador, which we didn't discuss anything like that," he added. "So I just want to say, I appreciate the congressman's right–I guess he can say it. He can't be sued here."