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Friday, March 03, 2017

Senator Al Franken letter to Attorney General Sessions - What? You spoke with Kislyak?

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) is pulling no punches as he just dropped an amazing letter demanding answers on Attorney General Jeff Sessions. His detailed letter is thorough and it's footnoted! 
Image result for SEnator Sessions right hand raised
Senator Jeff Sessions raises his right hand before giving testimony during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary, including Senator Al Franken.  (Under oath)

Senator Al Franken reminds Jeff Sessions: HELLO? "The ambassador from Russia is a Russian".

Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak

As a U.S. senator, Al Franken doesn't show his comedic side very often. But every now and then a quip from the Minnesota Democrat reminds you that he used to write jokes for “Saturday Night Live.”

Franken delivered one such reminder in a CNN interview Thursday while discussing a rather serious subject, The Washington Post's report that Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to disclose in confirmation proceedings that he met twice with Russia's ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign.

At a confirmation hearing in January, Franken posed the following question to Sessions: “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?”

“I'm not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions replied. “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.”

Speaking to CNN's Chris Cuomo, Franken recalled the exchange.

“I had simply asked him: What would he do if he had learned that other members of the campaign had met with the Russians, hoping he would say that he would recuse himself,” Franken said. “He chose not to answer that but instead chose to say that he had not met with the Russians.”

Then the punchline: “And, of course, the ambassador from Russia is a Russian,” the senator deadpanned.

The Honorable Jeff Sessions 
Attorney General U.S. 
Department of Justice 
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW 
Washington, DC 20530 

Dear Attorney General Sessions: 

Reports indicate that you communicated with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak while serving as a prominent member of President Trump's campaign team—conversations you failed to disclose during your confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. During that hearing, I asked you, "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?" 

You answered, "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 did not have communications with the Russians." We now know that statement not to be true, and if it is determined that you lied under oath to the Committee and the American people, it is your responsibility to resign. 

The American people deserve a full and fair accounting of the facts. I therefore request that you respond by the end of Friday, March 3, 2017, to the following two questions: 

1. In the seven weeks following your confirmation hearing, why did you fail to clarify that you had indeed communicated on more than one occasion with the Russian Ambassador during the 2016 presidential campaign until the Washington Post exposed those interactions? 

2. Describe in detail any and all communications between yourself and Russian officials and their associates during the presidential campaign of 2016, including but not limited to inperson conversations, phone calls, meetings, and electronic communications. 

Also include any such communications between members of your staff, including your Senate staff and any staff that assisted you during the campaign, and Russian officials and their associates. 

The Washington Post has reported that you twice met with Russia's ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign, meetings that were confirmed by Department of Justice officials. 

In response, you issued a statement explaining that you "never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign," a claim made implausible by the circumstances in which each meeting took place. In July 2016, more than four months after endorsing then candidate Trump, you delivered remarks during the Republican National Convention at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation. Following your speech, you were approached by a small group of ambassadors, including Ambassador Kislyak. The ambassador later pulled you aside and engaged you in private conversation. The notion that this conversation, which took place during your party s nominating convention, would not have touched upon issues related to the campaign strains credulity

On September 8, 2016, you met privately with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in your Senate office—a discussion your spokesperson characterized as a meeting taken in your capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

However, despite ongoing public debate about Russia s involvement in the hacking of American political organizations, an issue of national importance and a topic widely discussed at the time of your meeting, a Justice Department official is quoted as saying "[there's just not strong recollection of what was said" during that exchange. However, a Justice Department spokesperson also claimed that the meeting was in no way related to the 2016 presidential election. The fact that these statements are at odds with one another only raises suspicion about the content of your conversations. 

Moreover, even if your private meeting with Ambassador Kislyak was conducted in your capacity as a member of the Armed Services Committee, I find it hard to believe that you would not have discussed Russia's efforts to interfere in the election. 

Russian interference in the most ftmdamental feature of our democracy is a matter of national security, and the American people deserve to know the truth about what transpired and the extent to which associates of the Trump campaign and Trump organization were involved. In order to get a full and fair accounting of the facts, the public must have confidence that the FBI'S investigation into these matters is not just thorough, but impartial. However, the questions raised by your previously undisclosed communications with the Russian ambassador cast doubt upon the impartiality of those investigations. 

Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal has reported that investigators have examined contacts between you and Russian officials as "part of a wide ranging U.S. counter intelligence investigation into possible communications between members of Mr. Trump's campaign team and Russian operatives." 

Setting aside any political allegiances that might cloud your supervision of the probe, the public simply cannot have faith that a potential subject of the investigation would be capable of impartially overseeing the inquiry. 

In light of these revelations, I call upon you to recuse yourself from any and all investigations related to Russian interference in our elections, including investigations into contacts between the Russian government and associates of President Trump. In order to assure the American people that this matter will be resolved with integrity and impartiality, the Department of Justice should appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation. 

However, in recognition of the fact that the attorney general is responsible for appointing a special prosecutor, you must also recuse yourself from that responsibility. 

If it is determined that you lied to the Committee and the American people under oath during your confirmation hearing, it is incumbent upon you to resign from your position as attorney general. 

Sincerely, Al Franken 
United States Senator



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