During the Senate confirmation hearing of U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein for deputy attorney general under Jeff Sessions, Sen. Al Franken called the U.S. Attorney General’s recent letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee “insulting.” Franken also referred to Rosenstein’s willful ignorance of the declassified documents regarding Russia’s successful attempts into hacking the Democratic Party during the presidential election as “disturbing.”
At Sessions’ confirmation hearing in January, Sen. Franken asked Sessions what he would do as U.S. Attorney General if evidence emerged that “anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign” in regards to a CNN article reporting on Russian interference into the presidential election and clandestine meetings with Trump’s surrogates. Instead of answering Franken’s question, Sessions falsely claimed he “did not have communications with the Russians” while serving as a self-proclaimed Trump surrogate during the campaign.
After recusing himself from a federal investigation into Russian ties to Trump’s campaign, Sessions wrote a letter on Monday to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley and ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein falsely stating, “My answer was correct. As I noted in my public statement on March 2, 2017, I was surprised by the allegations in the question, which I had not heard before. I answered the question, which asked about a ‘continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government,’ honestly. I did not mention communications I had had with the Russian Ambassador over the years because the question did not ask about them.”
“As we all know now, that wasn’t true,” Franken said during Rosenstein’s confirmation hearing on Tuesday. “Attorney General Sessions met at least twice with the Russian Ambassador in 2016: once in July, at an event during the Republican National Convention, and once in September, in a private meeting in his Senate office.
“But Attorney General Sessions did not acknowledge the fact that his testimony misrepresented the truth until The Washington Post published an article exposing his meetings with the Russian Ambassador. In the seven weeks – seven weeks! – between his appearance before this committee and the publication of that article, Attorney General Sessions had ample opportunity to come clean and correct the record, but that’s not what he did.”
After pointing out that former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn was fired for lying to the vice president about his meetings with the Russian Ambassador, Franken asked Rosenstein the same question that Sessions had refused to answer. Rosenstein stated, “If there is predication to believe that such communication was in violation of federal law, I would ensure an appropriate investigation.”
“I think Senator Sessions should come back. I think he owes it to this committee to come back and to explain himself,” Franken said shortly before Grassley attempted to interrupt him. “He answered a question I didn’t ask. And for him to put this in his letter as a response is insulting.”
Speaking directly to Grassley, Franken asserted, “I’ve bent over backward not to say that he lied. He needs to come back. I’ve bent over backward. I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt, but he has to come back.”
Instead of addressing Franken’s concerns, Grassley repeatedly tapped his gavel in another failed attempt to silence the senator.
After Rosenstein voluntarily clarified that he had no knowledge of Russian interference into the presidential election, Franken scolded him, “Well, I actually find it very disturbing that you didn’t read the declassified report on Russia’s activities during the election. I find that very, very disturbing.”