During Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ sworn testimony before the Senate, he claimed that he didn’t “believe” he had been in contact with any Russian-related operatives during the 2016 Presidential campaign. However, a Russian-employed American lobbyist recently claimed that he had attended two dinner events hosted by Jeff Sessions during the summer of 2016 while the Presidential campaign was still ongoing. Since the term “Russian-related operative” includes both members of Russian companies and American lobbyists for Russia, it appears that the Attorney General’s testimony was contradicted.
Richard Burt, the American lobbyist for the Russian government, confirmed that the dinners hosted by Sessions also entertained former Republican foreign policy officials. Burt also claimed that he did not know if Sessions realized that he was a lobbyist for Russian interests. Additionally, Burt is reported to have advised Donald Trump on his first major foreign policy speech, meeting Sessions and the rest of the Trump campaign team at that time.
Burt’s background and Russian affiliations are well known, seeing as he previously served on the Russian Alfa Capital Partners board of advisors. The Alfa Capital Partners is a private equity fund that is heavily invested in by Russia’s Alfa Bank. Last year, the ACP lobbied for a pipeline company that is now controlled by Russia’s state-controlled energy company, Gazprom.
Burt claims that he was invited to the two dinners hosted by Sessions last summer, while Sessions testified in the Senate that he had no contacts with “any representative, including any American lobbyist or agent of any Russian company” during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
Former FBI director James Comey revealed in his Senate testimony that he has always believed Sessions would have to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Comey did not provide a great amount of detail about this statement, but it is widely believed that he was referring to Sessions’ contact with Richard Burt.
The FBI investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential campaign does not include Burt to a great degree, but Burt’s contradiction of Sessions’ testimony coupled with the reports that Sessions communicated with Burt during the campaign arouses some suspicion as to the truthfulness of Sessions’ testimony. As Burt commented, it is possible that Sessions was unaware of his Russian lobbying. However, due to Burt’s reputation in Washington as a lobbyist for Russian interest, that seems like a less likely scenario.