Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) on Friday slammed Attorney General Jeff Sessions for not telling him the truth during his January confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and again in October during a separate congressional hearing.
“I don’t think he told me the truth,” Franken told ABC News. “I think that on different occasions he either has a terrible memory or he is deliberately not telling me the truth.”
Franken asked Sessions during his confirmation hearing on Jan 10 what he would do “if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign.”
“Sen. Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions told Franken. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
Sessions repeated that claim in written testimony to the committee, despite multiple meetings with the Russian envoy Sergey Kislyak during the campaign. Sessions’ failure to disclose those meetings ultimately led to his recusal from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation, and functioned as one of the many missteps that triggered the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.
During a hearing last month, Franken pressed Sessions to clarify the testimony during his initial confirmation process.
“Was that what you were saying, you don’t believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians? Is that what you’re saying?” Franken asked.
“I did not, and I’m not aware of anyone else that did, and I don’t believe it happened,” Sessions said.
Sessions’ testimony directly contradicts an FBI affidavit that alleges former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos spoke directly with Sessions about potentially arranging a meeting with then-candidate Trump during the 2016 election.
In a letter sent Thursday, Franken demanded Sessions explain the discrepancy.
“We must get to the bottom of what happened so that we can prevent it from happening again, and I am deeply troubled that this newest revelation strongly suggests that the Senate—and the American public—cannot trust your word,” Franken wrote.
“Let’s remember that this is about Russian interference in our election and that is at the very heart of our system of democracy and we’re trying to find out whether the Trump campaign cooperated,” Franken said. “When they can’t keep their stories straight, it does seems very suspicious to me, so I want the Attorney General to answer questions. I sent him a letter and I would like for him to come before the judiciary meeting again and explain himself.”
A source close to Sessions defended the attorney general, promising he “has been entirely truthful and consistent on this matter.”
“He had no knowledge of any conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign with any Russian or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States,” the unnamed source insisted. “He was not aware of any continuous exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for Russian government as Sen. Franken suggested. He never heard of anybody on the campaign collaborating with the Russians.”