“I’ve been on the Armed Services Com for 10 years. No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever. Ambassadors call members of Foreign Rel Com.”
— Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), in a tweet, March 2, 2017

Sen. Claire McCaskill jumped on The Washington Post report that Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2016 had met twice with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, including once in his Senate office, when Sessions was a key adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

But now some of her earlier tweets have undermined that claim.

The Facts

Here are tweets that McCaskill sent out in 2013 and 2015:

That’s certainly different from her claims of “no call or meeting” with the Russian ambassador “ever” over the course of 10 years.

The senator’s spokesman, John LaBombard, argued there was a difference between the meetings: Sessions met privately with Kislyak, whereas McCaskill’s meeting was part of a group. He also said that McCaskill called Kislyak, rather than the other way around. “She did attend a group meeting about adoptions with other senators and had a brief, proactive call with the ambassador amid calls to several other parties to the Iran nuclear deal,” Lombard said.

By contrast, LaBombard said, “Attorney General Sessions met one-on-one with the Russian ambassador in the midst of a Russian cyber campaign against the U.S., and then misled the Judiciary Committee under oath about that meeting. He then tried to excuse it by saying it was part of the normal course of his Armed Services Committee work.”

One of Session’s interactions with the ambassador was as part of a group — in July, at the Republican National Convention, after Sessions gave a speech at an event for about 50 ambassadors sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. Sessions then spoke individually to some of the ambassadors, including Kislyak.

The second Sessions meeting is more sensitive, but details are not clear. It took place in his Senate office, on Sept. 8, but it’s unknown whether aides were present. It is also not known if Kislyak or Sessions initiated the meeting. A spokeswoman for Sessions characterized it as a meeting done as part of Sessions’s work on the Senate Armed Services Committee, not as a Trump campaign surrogate. She said that Sessions had more than 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors in 2016.

In a statement issued Wednesday night, Sessions said that he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

The Pinocchio Test

McCaskill went too far to suggest that she had never met or had a phone call with the Russian ambassador in the last 10 years, especially given that she had tweeted about such interactions in the past. Certainly the circumstances of the Sessions-Kislyak meeting in September raise questions — as do his answers under oath during his confirmation hearing — but McCaskill undercuts her outrage by making such misleading statements.

If the full explanation doesn’t fit in 140 characters, sometimes it’s best not to tweet. McCaskill should delete or revise her tweet to set the record straight.

Three Pinocchios

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“I’ve been on the Armed Services Com for 10 years. No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever. Ambassadors call members of Foreign Rel Com.”
in a tweet
Thursday, March 2, 2017