Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who once could not recall meeting the Russian Ambassador to the US, now says he may have discussed Donald Trump’s policies with Sergei Kislyak during the 2016 campaign.

Questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Sessions said he did “not recall” elements of the conversations in three meetings with Kislyak — at a campaign event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in April 2016; at the Republican National Convention in July; and in his Senate office in September. He effectively set aside his previous declaration that he had no Russian contacts, but maintained, “I did not have a continuing exchange of information.” He said that he was not aware of any collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, and that he was not informed about a June 9, 2016 meeting, arranged by Donald Trump Jr. and also attended by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign Paul Manafort with three Kremlin-linked envoys.

At his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions did not reveal any of his meetings with Kislyak: “I didn’t have communications with the Russians.” He later claimed that he had misunderstood the question, but in March he formally recused himself from the Trump-Russia investigation.

As further reports of the contacts with Kislyak emerged, Sessions said he did “not recall” the conversations. In July, the Washington Post reported on US intelligence intercepts of Kislyak’s accounts of the conversations to his superiors in Moscow, indicating that policy issues were discussed.

On Wednesday, he replied to questions from Senator Patrick Leahy about the September 2016 meeting:

[Kislyak] came into my office with two of my senior defence specialists and met with me for a while. I don’t think there was any discussion about the details of the campaign. It could have been at that meeting in my office or at the convention that some comment was made about what Trump’s positions were. I think that’s possible.