U.S. attorney general due to face Democrats' Russia questions next week

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is due to testify before a congressional committee next week, three sources familiar with the matter said on Monday, offering Democrats a chance to question him about his past statements on President Donald Trump’s campaign exchanges with Russian intermediaries.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes a statement regarding national security in New York, U.S., November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Sessions’ testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which has not been publicly announced, was confirmed by a Justice Department spokesman and two congressional aides.

The open hearing, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 14, is part of the committee’s regular oversight of the Justice Department, but Russia appears almost certain to be a topic.

Separately, Sessions is due to appear in a closed session before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 14, a source familiar with that panel’s plans said.

Senate Democrats last week demanded that Sessions be recalled to testify on the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts after the disclosure of an effort to set up a meeting between then-Republican candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

That, they said, conflicted with Sessions’ earlier statements to Congress.

The effort to set up a Trump-Putin meeting - which never took place - was disclosed in court documents filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election and whether there was collusion between Trump aides and the Kremlin.

According to the documents, George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, said at a March 31, 2016, meeting of Trump foreign policy advisers “that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.”

Both Sessions and Trump attended that meeting, according to a photo posted on Trump’s Instagram account.

Democrats want to question Sessions because, in October, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that a continuing exchange between the Trump campaign and Russian government intermediaries “did not happen, at least not to my knowledge and not with me.”

Sessions has denied misleading congressional committees about his interactions regarding Russia. He had to recuse himself from investigations into the alleged Russian interference after it was revealed in March that he met with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak at least twice in 2016.

J.D. Gordon, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who was at the March 2016 meeting, told Reuters that Papadopoulos indeed “made a pitch for meeting with Putin.”

But Sessions shot the idea down, Gordon said. “Yes, within minutes. He was quite clear. We thought that was the end of it.”

Papadopoulos continued trying to arrange contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, the court filings say.

Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay and John Walcott.; Editing by Mary Milliken