Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said Wednesday that he had asked the FBI whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions met more frequently than he admitted with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign
Franken — whose question to Sessions during his confirmation hearing in January prompted Sessions to say, incorrectly, “I did not have communications with the Russians” during the campaign— said the attorney general’s letter correcting that testimony in March was “very unsatisfactory.”
The senator told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell Wednesday night that he and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who is also on the Judiciary Committee, had even sent a letter to then-FBI Director James Comey, “asking him and the FBI to investigate whether in fact Sessions had met other times with Russians, including this meeting that we’re talking about in the Mayflower.”
Franken was referring to a CNN report Wednesday that congressional investigators were investigating whether Sessions may have had a third meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the 2016 campaign — in addition to the two he admitted to in the letter correcting his testimony.
CNN cited unnamed “Republican and Democratic Hill sources and intelligence officials briefed on the investigation.”
CNN reported that Kislyak and Sessions attended a VIP reception at the Mayflower, where Trump was delivering a foreign policy address in April 2016, but also that the FBI was investigating whether there was an additional, private meeting between the two that day.
On Thursday morning, Leahy released three letters that he and Franken sent to the FBI in March, April and May, the first two to Comey and the last to the bureau’s acting director, Andrew McCabe. The first asked Comey to investigate “all contacts the Russian ambassador, or any other Russian officials, may have had with Attorney General Sessions or with his staff, and whether any laws were broken in the course of those contacts or in any subsequent discussion of whether they occurred.”
“We served with the Attorney General in the Senate and on the Judiciary Committee for many years,” Leahy and Franken wrote in a statement accompanying the release. “We know he would not tolerate dishonesty if he were in our shoes. If it is determined that the Attorney General still has not been truthful with Congress and the American people about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, he needs to resign.”
“It had been characterized one way, but we had some reason to believe that that wasn’t the case,” Franken told O’Donnell Wednesday, referring to the gathering at the Mayflower. “It had been described in a way that he could plausibly say ‘I don’t remember that.’ But what’s coming out today I believe is that that may not be the case. And if this the true, that would be extremely disturbing.”
Franken added: “Our office has been in contact with the FBI on this. And they said they were crafting a response to us. It sounded to us that something was about to break on this.” He said that he wasn’t surprised at how the story had developed publicly.
Later on in the interview, Franken returned to Sessions’ letter correcting his testimony.
“Sen. Sessions’ letter to us was insulting our intelligence when he said why he didn’t do this,” he said, referring to Sessions’ failure to disclose the meetings with the Russian ambassador. “It actually contradicted his own explanations in the press conference.”
Watch below via MSNBC:
This post has been updated.
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