U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been under fire in recent months for his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential race, has retained the services of Washington lawyer Charles Cooper, a longtime friend.
Cooper was seen sitting behind Sessions when he testified last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee about President Donald Trump and Russia.
“I do represent the Attorney General, but, as with all clients, do not comment on confidential client matters,” Cooper wrote in an email to The Washington Post.
Cooper, a partner with his own firm, Cooper & Kirk, would not say when he was retained by Sessions or whether he is representing Sessions in the special counsel’s investigation into Trump and Russia. Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse Trump on the campaign trail, was a top adviser to Trump during his race for president.
Cooper also assisted Sessions with his January confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, discussing those preparations in an interview with The Post at the time.
Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, described Cooper as “the attorney general’s longtime friend and counsel.”
The National Law Journal first reported that Cooper is now Sessions’ personal attorney.
Cooper, who clerked for Justice William Rehnquist on the U.S. Supreme Court, served in the Justice Department’s civil rights division and was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. He also was a partner at McGuireWoods and at Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge.
Cooper also was under consideration to serve as the Justice Department’s solicitor general. He withdrew his name in February, citing his concern after watching Sessions go through the confirmation process to become attorney general.
“After witnessing the treatment that my friend Jeff Sessions, a decent and honorable man who bears only good will and good cheer to everyone he meets, had to endure at the hands of a partisan opposition that will say anything and do anything to advance their political interests, I am unwilling to subject myself, my family and my friends to such a process,” Cooper said in a statement at the time.
Several other administration officials have recently retained attorneys. Vice President Mike Pence hired a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia to represent him for the special-counsel investigation and the congressional inquiries into possible collusion between Trump associates and Russia.
Since Sessions was confirmed in early February, he has been dogged by questions about his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. On March 2, Sessions announced that he was recusing himself from the Russia investigation because of his role in the Trump campaign. His announcement came the day after The Post revealed that Sessions twice met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign and did not disclose that to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing.
In May, Sessions acknowledged that he did not reveal his meetings last year with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance. But he said his Senate staff was advised by an FBI employee that he did not have to list his past seven years of foreign contacts while he was a senator.
Last week, during a sometimes testy hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions insisted that he had never had any conversations with Russians about “any type of interference” in the presidential election.
Washington Post writer Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.