DFL Sen. Al Franken has tried being nice to his former U.S. Senate colleague.
Now he's going to be honest: Attorney General Jeff Sessions went out of his way to lie to Franken, the Senate Judiciary, and the public about Sessions' meetings with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 presidential campaign.
It was back in January, during a confirmation hearing for then-U.S. Sen. Sessions (R-Alabama), that Franken asked how Sessions would, as head of the Justice Department, handle an investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
In a moment that's coming back to haunt him (and his new boss), Sessions volunteered: "I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two, to that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians."
There's just one problem. Well, two: On Friday, Sessions said he'd recuse himself from any review into the Republican campaign and the Russians, acknowledging he had, in fact, met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, twice during the campaign.
Sessions has claimed that those meetings were related to his work as a lawmaker, where he sat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. One meeting took place in Sessions' office, where he says the two discussed Russia's military involvement in Ukraine. That sounds legit.
"Two months before the September meeting, Sessions attended a Heritage Foundation event in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention that was attended by about 50 ambassadors. When the event was over, a small group of ambassadors approached Sessions as he was leaving the podium, and Kislyak was among them, the Justice Department official said."
Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a nomination hearing for Rod Rosenstein, Trump's nominee for deputy attorney general to serve under Sessions. If confirmed, Rosenstein would lead any investigation into Russia in place of Sessions -- and into Sessions, if the scope of the review came to include the "time or two" surrogate for Trump.
Franken asked Rosenstein a few questions, but spent most of his time grilling Sessions by proxy. "I must have just taken it for granted that witnesses understood their obligation to correct inaccuracies in their testimony," he said. "But evidently that obligation was not known to Attorney General Sessions."
Later, Franken referenced a letter Sessions sent the committee, which explained that Sessions didn't correct his testimony because he "considered [his] answer [to Franken] responsive," and that no one had "suggested otherwise." That is: I didn't say I lied... because no one had caught me yet.
Consider Sessions caught.
Turning to face committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Franken said: "I think he owes it to this committee to come back, and to explain himself."
Later, he added: "I've bent over backwards, not to say that [Sessions] lied. He needs to come back."
Grassley was, for the moment, unmoved, calling Franken's query to Sessions about Russia a "gotcha' question."
When a discussion of one's proximity to Russia comes up, and you start quoting Sarah Palin...
Later, Franken took his case to the -- Failing! Fake news! Sad! -- folks at CNN, saying it's "Hard to come to any conclusion [than] that [Sessions] just perjured himself."
Serious question in Trump's America: Is perjury still illegal?
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