Richard Burt contradicts Jeff Sessions testimony that he didnt believe he had contacts with lobbyists working for Russian interests during Trumps campaign
An American lobbyist for Russian interests who helped craft an important foreign policy speech for Donald Trump has confirmed that he attended two dinners hosted by Jeff Sessions during the 2016 campaign, apparently contradicting the attorney generals sworn testimony given this week.
Sessions testified under oath on Tuesday that he did not believe he had any contacts with lobbyists working for Russian interests over the course of Trumps campaign. But Richard Burt, a former ambassador to Germany during the Reagan administration, who has represented Russian interests in Washington, told the Guardian that he could confirm previous media reports that stated he had contacts with Sessions at the time.
I did attend two dinners with groups of former Republican foreign policy officials and Senator Sessions, Burt said.
Asked whether Sessions was unfamiliar with Burts role as a lobbyist for Russian interests a fact that is disclosed in public records or had any reason to be confused about the issue, Burt told the Guardian that he did not know.
Several media reports published before Trumps election in November noted that Burt advised then candidate Trump on his first major foreign policy speech, a role that brought him into contact with Sessions personally.
Burt, who previously served on the advisory board of Alfa Capital Partners, a private equity fund where Russias Alfa Bank was an investor and last year was lobbying on behalf of a pipeline company that is now controlled by Gazprom, Russias state-controlled energy conglomerate, first told Politico in October that he had been invited to two dinners that were hosted by Sessions last summer, at the height of the presidential campaign.
Sessions, a former senator for Alabama who was chairman of the Trump campaigns national security committee, reportedly invited Burt so that he could discuss issues of national security and foreign policy.
When John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona who is a frequent critic of Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin, asked Sessions in a hearing this week before the Senate intelligence committee about whether the attorney general had ever had any contacts with any representative, including any American lobbyist or agent of any Russian company during the 2016 campaign, Sessions said he did not.
I dont believe so, Sessions said.
Other outlets, including the New Yorker magazine and Reuters, also reported last year that Burt had contributed his views to Trumps speech. When NPR interviewed Burt in May 2016 about the talk, he said he was asked to provide a draft for that speech, and parts of that draft survived into the final [version].
The speech, delivered on 27 April 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel, was attended by Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and is now at the heart of new questions about Sessions personal dealings with Russian officials. Sessions recused himself from oversight of the FBIs investigation into possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign in March after it emerged that he held two undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador last year.
In his explosive testimony before Congress earlier this month, former FBI director James Comey, who was fired by Trump, suggested that he had known that Sessions would eventually have to recuse himself from the Russia probe, but declined to explain the details in public.
Questions directed at Sessions by lawmakers days later after they had privately been briefed by Comey suggested it related to a third alleged encounter with Kislyak that had not been disclosed, this time at the Mayflower Hotel speech. In his confirmation hearing, Sessions had told lawmakers under oath that he had never had communication with Russian officials.