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Sessions jokes about Russian meetings in Federalist Society address

Attorney General Jeff Sessions opened a speech at a Federalist Society gathering Friday by asking the audience if there were “any Russians” in attendance.

“I just was thinking, I want to ask you: Is Ambassador Kislyak in the room? Before I get started here, any Russians?” Sessions said, eliciting laughter and applause from the crowd. “Anybody been to Russia? Got a cousin in Russia or something?”

The joke came just days after Sessions sparred with members of Congress over apparent discrepancies in his previous testimony regarding his interactions with Russians during the 2016 campaign, including former Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions offered an unprompted assurance that he “never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election.”

When the Washington Post reported weeks later that Sessions had met multiple times during the campaign with Kislyak, the attorney general announced that he would recuse himself from any Justice Department investigation related to the 2016 election.

Despite his recusal, Sessions explained away the meetings with Kislyak by arguing that what he had meant in his Senate testimony was that he had not met with any Russians in his capacity as a surrogate for Trump’s campaign. He told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that “my story has never changed” and that “I certainly didn’t mean I’d never met a Russian in the history of my life.”

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