Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about a Washington Post report that he may have discussed campaign-related matters with Russia’s ambassador to Washington last year.
Franken, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, said he believes Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) also wants Sessions to testify on the matter.
The Post reported Friday that Ambassador Sergey Kislyak told his higher-ups in Moscow that he discussed the campaign and Russian policy priorities with Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, despite public assertions to the contrary by the embattled attorney general. Kislyak’s accounts of the conversations were intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies.
(The Russian Embassy in Washington announced on Twitter that Kislyak’s tenure ended Saturday, the Associated Press reported.)
“What I do know is what I read, which is that I guess someone in Kislyak’s position can sometimes distort what he says when he is reporting back to build himself up,” Franken told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I also saw in those reports that Kislyak isn’t that type. And it seems to me that since Attorney General Sessions hasn’t been terribly truthful regarding these things that it’s more likely that what Kislyak was saying was the case.”
Sessions, under questioning from Franken in his January confirmation hearing, denied meeting with any Russian officials during the campaign. But The Post later reported that Sessions, who served as a top foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, met with Kislyak at least twice last year.
The revelation prompted the attorney general to recuse himself from the FBI probe of Russian interference in the election and any ties between that government and the Trump operation. Announcing the decision in March, Sessions said he had talked with Kislyak only in his capacity as a senator, not as a Trump surrogate.
The Friday report from The Post came as Sessions faces new doubts about his standing with President Trump, who in an interview last week expressed frustration with the attorney general’s decision to recuse himself and said he regretted naming him to his job.
Franken said Sunday that he “absolutely” wants Sessions to appear before the Judiciary Committee again, adding, “I think Chairman Grassley does want him to come back.”
The senator said he was unsure about when that should happen and whether it should be before or after the committee hears closed-door testimony from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son.
Those interviews have not been scheduled yet.