Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota has blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asserting that the nation's top law enforcement officer was not being truthful when he testified that he was not aware of any contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 election.
On Nov. 2, Franken stated during an interview that he questioned Sessions' honesty after it was revealed that Sessions had shot down a campaign meeting with the Russian government in March 2016.
"He seems to have problems telling the truth on this subject," Franken told CNN.
On Oct. 30, the Department of Justice disclosed that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Court documents revealed that Papadopoulos had proposed arranging a meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a campaign meeting in March 2016 and that Sessions had personally shot the idea down.
Franken concluded that Sessions should have remembered the meeting during his congressional testimony and added: "Ultimately, whether or not he committed perjury, will be again, I believe, Bob Mueller's call."
Franken has repeatedly blasted Sessions for not being forthcoming about his contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.
On Jan. 10, Franken asked Sessions during his confirmation hearing if he was aware of any contact between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential race.
"I'm not aware of any of those activities," Sessions responded. "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I'm unable to comment on it."
It was later disclosed that Sessions had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least twice during the 2016 campaign, prompting the attorney general to recuse himself from overseeing the federal probe into whether any Trump campaign associates colluded with Russian officials.
On Oct. 18, Sessions testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Franken asked the attorney general again if he was aware of any contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the presidential race.
"I did not and I'm not aware of anyone else that did, and I don't believe that happened," Sessions said.
On Nov. 2, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page disclosed during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee that he had told Sessions in July 2016 that he planned to take a trip to Russia.
"Back in June 2016, I mentioned in passing that I happened to be planning to give a speech at a university in Moscow," Page later told reporters.
Following the reveal of the Papadopoulos documents, several Senate Democrats have called for Sessions to testify again about his knowledge of any contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the election. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asserted that Sessions "needs to clarify his testimony before our committee."
An anonymous source familiar with Papadopoulos' meeting with Sessions told The Washington Post that the attorney general forgot about the encounter because it was swiftly resolved: "As far as Sessions seemed to be concerned, when he shut down this idea of Papadopoulos engaging with Russia, that was the end of it and he moved the meeting along to other issues ... The attorney general immediately dismissed it and moved on."
On Nov. 2, Franken penned a letter to Sessions blasting him for his original testimony.
"Once again, developments in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election have brought to light evidence that you failed to tell the truth about your interactions with Russian operatives during the campaign, as well as your awareness of Russian contacts by other members of the Trump campaign team," Franken wrote to Sessions, according to the Star Tribune.
"This is an alarming pattern in which you, the nation's top law enforcement officer, apparently failed to tell the truth, under oath, about the Trump team's contacts with agents of Russia -- a hostile foreign power that interfered with the 2016 election," Franken added.