WASHINGTON – Attorney General Jeff Sessions is firing back at Minnesota Sen. Al Franken after the senator has repeatedly accused him of perjury.
The accusations started after Sessions, in response to a question from Franken during the attorney general’s confirmation hearing, denied having communications with the Russians, despite later revealing he had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice in 2016. Sessions contends the meetings were not campaign related, rather routine official duties as a senator.
This revelation contradicted Sessions’ response to one of Franken’s questions during the January confirmation hearing. Franken questioned the then-nominee about potential Russian collusion with the Trump administration, asking, “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?” Sessions responded saying he was “not aware” of any such activities.
“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it,” Sessions said.
The inconsistencies in Sessions’ story sparked instant backlash, with Franken accusing Sessions of lying under oath. Franken has since doubled down on his accusations multiple times, most recently during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press.”
On Tuesday, Sessions appeared before the Senate intelligence committee to address the allegations. During his opening statement before the committee, Sessions singled out Franken.
“There is the assertion that I did not answer Senator Franken’s question honestly at my confirmation hearing. That is false,” Sessions said. “This is how it happened. He asked me a rambling question that included dramatic, new allegations that the United States intelligence community had advised President-elect Trump that ‘there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.’ I was taken aback by these explosive allegations, which he said were being reported in breaking news that day. I wanted to refute immediately any suggestion that I was a part of such an activity.”
“That was the context in which I was asked the question, and in that context, my answer was a fair and correct response to the charge as I understood it. It simply did not occur to me to go further than the context of the question and list any conversations I may have had with Russians in routine situations, as I had with numerous other foreign officials,” he added.
Following the allegations of improper contact with the Russians, Sessions recused himself from any investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election. However, Sessions shot back at Franken and others accusing him of perjury saying he did not recuse himself from “defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations.”
“These false attacks, the innuendo, and the leaks, you can be sure, will not intimidate me,” Sessions said.
Franken was not a part of the hearing on Tuesday, but was quick to respond to Sessions’ claims that his response was “fair and correct.”
“I also think it’s very clear, despite what he attempted to assert in his testimony, that Attorney General Sessions wasn’t actually confused by my question during his January confirmation hearing. Rather, I believe he’s trying to downplay the gravity of and whitewash the fact that he misled the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath and failed to correct the record until he was forced to do so seven weeks later after reporting by the Washington Post,” Franken said in a press release.
Franken is now calling for Sessions to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Franken sits on.
“Here’s my message to Jeff Sessions: stop misleading the American public, stop making excuses, and start being more forthcoming,” Franken said.“Come before the Senate Judiciary Committee to speak honestly and openly with those who you first misled.”