Attorney General Jeff Sessions is under fire to recuse himself or resign from his position following a Washington Post report that he had contact with Russian officials during President Trump’s campaign, but declined to disclose that information during his confirmation hearings.
Members of Congress from both side of the aisle are angry about the revelations because the former Alabama Senator was specifically asked about any contact during the hearings in January. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked the prospective Attorney General about a news report alleging continuous contact between Trump surrogates and Russian officials, to which Sessions replied that he was unaware of such contact.
“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it,” Sessions told Franken during his hearing. This information directly contradicts the Washington Post’s report that he had spoken with the Russian ambassador twice.
Read the full exchange between Sessions and Franken from the confirmation hearings:
FRANKEN: CNN has just published a story and I’m telling you this about a news story that’s just been published. I’m not expecting you to know whether or not it’s true or not. But CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week that included information that quote, “Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” These documents also allegedly say quote, “There was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.”
Now, again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out, so you know. But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?
SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.
FRANKEN: Very well. Without divulging sensitive information, do you know about this or know what compromising personal and financial information the Russians claim to have?
SESSIONS: Senator Franken, allegations get made about candidates all the time and they’ve been made about president-elect Trump a lot sometimes. Most of them, virtually all of them have been proven to be exaggerated and untrue. I would just say to you that I have no information about this matter. I have not been in on the classified briefings and I’m not a member of the intelligence committee, and I’m just not able to give you any comment on it at this time.
FRANKEN: OK. Totally fair.
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Write to Alana Abramson at Alana.Abramson@time.com