Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) characterized Attorney General Jeff Session’s confirmation hearing testimony as “at best, extremely misleading” and demanded Sessions recuse himself from all future investigations of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election Thursday, after the Washington Post reported Wednesday night that Sessions met with the Russian ambassador to the United States twice during the campaign.
Franken had asked Sessions during his confirmation hearing what he would do as attorney general about allegations that “anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign” had been in contact with Russian nationals during the campaign.
Sessions answered: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” roundtable asked Franken about the exchange Thursday morning.
“I asked him, since these were hearings to be attorney general, what would he do if he learned that members of the Trump campaign team had been meeting with the Russians,” Franken recalled, “and he didn’t answer my question, which probably should have been ‘I’d recuse myself.’ But what he did was, instead, he pivoted and said, ‘I was a campaign surrogate or considered one and I never met with the Russians.’ That is, at best, extremely misleading, and here we are.”
Franken said that to characterize Sessions’ answer as “extremely misleading” was “the most charitable interpretation.” But he added that Sessions’ additional denial at the time of any campaign-related Russian contact in a written statement to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) made his story more dubious.
It’s “very hard to believe,” Franken said, that Sessions “was saying ‘Well, I met with him, but not about the campaign,’ which he is what he is saying.”
“In between saying ‘I didn’t talk about the campaign,’ what came out was, ‘Oh, yeah, I talked to the Russian ambassador, but don’t remember what I talked about,’” Franken further characterized Sessions as saying. “Well, which of the three things is it? Do you not remember what you talked about? If you don’t remember what you talk about, then you don’t remember that you didn’t talk about the campaign.”
Franken said that Sessions should recuse himself from any investigation of Russian involvement in the campaign, and even recuse himself from the selection of a special prosecutor to investigate the situation.
“We need an independent special prosecutor,” Franken said, adding later, referring to Sessions: “I would like to see him answer questions at a press conference.”
In a Facebook post late Wednesday, Frank said he will push for more answers from Sessions.
“In light of these revelations, I’m going to be directly pressing Attorney General Sessions to answer some tough questions about his contact with Russia and his testimony before the Judiciary Committee,” Franken wrote on Facebook.