Washington, D.C.

Democrats sought inquiry of testimony by Sessions at his confirmation hearing

He has insisted his answer was correct when viewed in context
President Donald Trump speaks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on May 15, 2017.
President Donald Trump speaks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on May 15, 2017.

WASHINGTON — Two Democratic senators disclosed Thursday that they had asked James Comey, the former FBI director, to open a criminal investigation into whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions perjured himself when he falsely said at his confirmation hearing that he “did not have communications with the Russians” last year.

The senators, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Al Franken of Minnesota, released three letters to the FBI that they privately sent in March, April and May. The letters also showed they had been expecting a briefing from Comey on May 12 but never got it because President Donald Trump abruptly fired Comey three days earlier.

“We served with the attorney general in the Senate and on the Judiciary Committee for many years,” Franken and Leahy said in a joint statement accompanying the release of their letters. “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.”

The dispute centers on Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation testimony in January given by Sessions, when he told Franken that he did not have any contacts with Russians last year. In fact, Sessions met at least twice in 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak: once at a reception at the Republican National Convention in July, and in Sessions’ Senate office in September.

A day after The Washington Post reported those meetings on March 1, Sessions recused himself from overseeing the criminal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with it. The case is now being overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, although he has appointed a special counsel, Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, to handle it.

But Sessions, who as a senator from Alabama was an early and staunch supporter of Trump, has insisted that his answer to Franken was correct when viewed in context because he was responding to a question about Trump campaign contacts with Russians. Sessions said he considered himself to have met with Kislyak in his role as a senator, not his role as a Trump campaign surrogate.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee had already made public their own letter to Comey on March 2 asking for an investigation of Sessions’ meetings. The disclosure Thursday showed that at least two senators were also pressing the FBI for an inquiry, which could be a topic that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee ask Comey about in public testimony expected to be given before that panel next week.

The letters showed Franken and Leahy had also asked the FBI to look into a March 8 report in The Huffington Post suggesting that Sessions and Kislyak might have had a third meeting in April 2016, when both attended an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. The Justice Department has said Sessions did not speak with Kislyak at that reception.

“The facts haven’t changed; the then-Senator did not have any private or side conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel,” Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Categories: -News-

Leave a Reply