Franken: Sessions Was "Extremely Misleading" About Russia In Confirmation Testimony


On CNN's 'New Day,' Sen. Al Franken recalls Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmation testimony that he never met with any Russians in light of reporting that Sessions met twice with the top Russian diplomat in Washington. Sessions said in the hearing that he had no knowledge of any meetings with Russia.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: Do you think that Sessions lied to you?

FRANKEN: I would say that at the very least this was extremely misleading. I don’t -- I would love for him -- I’m going to be sending him a letter to have him explain himself. But he made a bold statement that during the campaign he had not met with the Russians. That's not true. Whether he, in his head, thought that he was answering whether he had talked to any Russians about the campaign, then he should have said so. He should have said, I met with the Russian ambassador a couple times, but we didn't discuss the campaign. But then his office shouldn't come out with an explanation saying, he talked with the Russian ambassador but he doesn't remember what he -- what they talked about. And he needs to explain himself here.

And for him to get on his high horse and say, I don't know what all this is about, I just asked a question and he was the one who offered this. I didn't ask him, have you talked to any of the Russians during the campaign. I didn't ask him that. I asked him, what would you do if you learned that members of the campaign had met with the Russians, hoping that he'd say he'd recuse himself in any investigation. Instead, he chose to answer the way he did, which, again, as I said, is extremely misleading at the most charitable.

CUOMO: Well, there are two basic defenses that are being offered up for Sessions. One is from the White House and it's basically just a political blame game and that's a distraction so I don't really care about that. But the other one is that it's context. That he didn't think that the question was about meetings that pertained to the election and they used his response to Senator Leahy of Vermont, who did one of the written questionnaires -- questions in a questionnaire, and he asked in that question, "several of the president-elect's nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after Election Day?" And Sessions answered in a word, "no." Do you think it is a fair defense that he said "no" because, in his judgment, he never met with them about the election?

FRANKEN: Well, we don't know if that's true. We don't know if it’s in his judgment he never met them about the election because he -- listen, in the hearing, what I developed, that he had been -- he misrepresented his record as a prosecutor. He said that he had been -- he personally handled four civil rights cases that he didn't personally handle.

CUOMO: Uh-huh. It was about his office.

FRANKEN: So and then -- and then he answered my question in a way that was either deliberately misleading or misleading because he literally didn't remember that he had met with the Russian ambassador or he interpreted my question differently.

Look, this is an extremely serious matter. This is -- the other major foreign power interfering with the Democratic election of the United States of America. Nothing could be more serious.

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