Sen. Al Franken on Thursday issued a fiery letter demanding answers from US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, amid reports Sessions emphatically rejected a proposal in March 2016 from former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos to set up a meeting between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“This newest revelation strongly suggests that the Senate—and the American public—cannot trust your word,” Franken wrote.
During his confirmation hearings in January, Sessions told Congress in sworn testimony that he was unaware of any discussions between the Trump campaign and Russian officials to collaborate in defeating Hillary Clinton. Session’s interaction with Papdopoulos at the March 31 meeting came to light this week alongside the revelation that Papadopoulos quietly plead guilty to lying to federal authorities over the summer about his attempts to work with Russian officials on behalf of the Trump campaign.
A source familiar with the March 31 meeting told Mother Jones that Sessions does not recall Papadopoulos citing ongoing contacts with the Russians, but that he told Papadopoulos not to pursue contacts with the Russians.
The attorney general has repeatedly revised his account of his meetings with Russian officials during the campaign: First he claimed he had zero contacts with the Russians, only to admit later that he had met with the Russian ambassador, but did not discuss campaign-related issues. Last month, he changed his story once again, saying that the Trump campaign may have come up during his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
“How your responses morphed from ‘I did not have any communications with the Russians’ to ‘I did not discuss the political campaign’ and then finally going to ‘I did not discuss interference in the election’—that to me is moving the goal post every time,” Franken said during a second Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Sessions, in October. “By the end, we’re going to a 75-yard field goal.”