CNN reports that George Papadopoulos, convicted of lying to the FBI, is saying through his lawyer that Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions both “apparently supported” his proposal that Trump meet with Vladimir Putin during the 2016 campaign. According to papers filed by Papadopoulos’ legal team:
While some in the room rebuffed George’s offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it.
Sessions, by contrast, has testified to Congress that he “pushed back” against the idea of the Putin summit. Two CNN sources have supported Sessions’ version of events, stating that the then-Senator shut down the idea of a Putin meeting.
In all likelihood, Papadopoulos is lying, as he did to the FBI — lying about the reaction of both Sessions and Trump. In addition to the witnesses who support Sessions’ version of events, and to Papadopoulos’ status as a convicted liar, there’s the fact that no meeting with Putin occurred or, as far as we know, came close to occurring. If both Trump and Sessions — or even just Trump — had supported the idea of a meeting, things would have moved down that path. Apparently, they didn’t.
Papadopoulos’ story, though very likely false, highlights why Sessions made the right decision when he recused himself from the Russian investigation. He understood that his significant role in the Trump campaign made it inappropriate for him to oversee an investigation into that campaign, including the question of whether the campaign colluded with Russia.
The meeting Papadopoulos purports to describe is, unlike much of Robert Mueller’s work, a proper part of an investigation into the 2016 election. There was always the possibility of conflicting versions of that meeting.
For Sessions to have presided over the Russia investigation under these circumstances would have raised serious ethical concerns. Thus, he needed to recuse himself.