March 7, 2017

This exchange between Senator Al Franken and Senator Chuck Grassley over Attorney General Sessions' lie to the Judiciary Committee was a moment. Franken never actually had to say Sessions lied, because the record speaks for itself.

Watch, or read the transcript below, but it was definitely a moment. Chuck Grassley tried to pass it off as a "gotcha question" and Franken was not having it.

Later in the hearing, Franken came back again to reinforce his contention that it was not a gotcha question, which prompted Grassley to cherry-pick quotes from the "fake news" CNN, New York Times, and Washington Post sources to bolster Sessions.

Yes, Sessions should come back. Or he should just resign for not being truthful with the committee while testifying under oath.

SEN FRANKEN: My questions are not answered honestly. I asked then Senator Sessions the following question, 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 didn't ask who had communicated with the Russian government. I asked how the man positioned to become the nation's top law enforcement individual, a man who had served as chairman of the Trump campaign's national security advisor, advisory committee would conduct himself if circumstances required that the Department of Justice investigate members of that same campaign. Here's what then Senator Sessions said, and I quote, "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." let me repeat that. "I did not have communications with the Russians." As we all know now, that wasn't true. Attorney General Sessions met at least twice with the Russian ambassador in 2016, once in July, at an event during the Republican National Convention, and once in September in a private meeting in his Senate office. Attorney General Sessions did not acknowledge the fact that his testimony misrepresented the truth until "the Washington Post" published an article exposing his meetings with Russian ambassador. In the seven weeks, seven weeks between his appearance before this committee and the publication of that article, Attorney General Sessions had ample opportunity to come clean and correct the record, but that's not what he did. So after an embarrassment in the Post, describing undisclosed meetings with the very same Russian official whose communications forced the president's national security adviser to resign, Attorney General Sessions hastily called a press conference and announced that he would recuse himself from overseeing any Justice Department investigation into Russian interference with the election. So Mr. Rosenstein, now that the Attorney General has recused himself, it's your turn to answer my question. The very same question. Again, here is the question I asked then Senator Sessions, and that I would like you to answer now. 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?

MR. ROSENSTEIN: If there is predication to believe such communication was in violation of federal law, Senator, I would ensure an appropriate investigation.

SEN FRANKEN: Now, Mr. Rosenstein, do you understand that you have an ongoing obligation to update your testimony and correct any inaccuracies or mistakes that you discover after you leave the hearing today?

ROSENSTEIN: You're making me very self-conscious, Senator, but yes I believe I do. I'm trying to be as careful as I can.

FRANKEN: Good. I must have just taken it for granted that witnesses understood their obligation to correct inaccuracies in their testimony, but evidently that obligation was not known to Attorney General Sessions. Yesterday four days after the press conference at which he announced his recusal and 55 days after his hearing, Attorney General Sessions finally wrote to the committee to update his testimony. In that updated testimony, the Attorney General references a letter written by the Democratic members of this committee on March 3rd, Attorney General Sessions said, and I quote, "The letter asks why I did not come forward to note any contact with the Russian ambassador before its disclosure. Having considered my answer responsive and no one having suggested otherwise, there was no need for a supplemented answer." So it would seem that, in the Attorney General's view, unless this committee has reason to believe that a witness provided false testimony or unless this committee suggests that a witness's answer is grossly misleading or unresponsive, that that witness is relieved of his or her sworn duty to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But I don't think that's how it works, and in light of Attorney General Sessions' failure to recognize his obligation to this body, I thought it was important for me to make sure that you clearly understand this obligation, and you do understand this obligation, right?

ROSENSTEIN: I believe I do, Senator.

FRANKEN: Okay. I think Senator Sessions should come back. I think he owes it to this committee to come back and to explain himself, because he also says in his letter, may I just -- [ inaudible comment ] this will be very short. He says "I did not mention communications I had with the Russian ambassador over the years because the question did not ask about them." I asked him what he would do as Attorney General if it was true that members of the campaign had met with the Russians. So he says I did not mention communications I had with the Russian ambassador over the years because the question did not ask about them. He answered a question I didn't ask, and for him to put this in his letter as a response is insulting, and he should come back and explain himself, Mr. Chairman. I think he owes that to us. Because this appears to me like he was -- and I have been, I've bent over backward not to say that he lied. He needs to come back. I've bent over backward. I've given him the benefit of the doubt, but he has to come back.

ROSENSTEIN: Mr. Chairman, may I -- sorry, may I just make one clarification? I apologize, but Senator Franken's comments I think make it important for me to make this point, that is that I want to make sure I didn't misspeak earlier asked about whether or not I would announce an investigation was ending regarding Russia. I want to make sure you're all clear on this, I do not know if there is an investigation. I don't know anything but what I read in the newspapers at this point.

FRANKEN: I actually find it very disturbing that you did not read the declassified report on Russia's activities. I find that very, I have disturbing. .

ROSENSTEIN: I read the newspaper story and I was sorry to hear that, Senator.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: I would like to comment on what Senator Franken just said and I don't expect Senator Franken to act like I would towards our witnesses, but as I remember Senator Franken asking his question of Sessions, he referred to something that there had just been something come on CNN that obviously, and Franken said that Senator Sessions wouldn't know what it was and he was going to take that into consideration that it would have been all right for you to ask your question, and you probably should have given him a chance to get the information you had and reflect on it, and give an answer in writing. Now the way I tend to, and you both of you know that I said this to you when you were in the privacy of my office. If I was going to ask you a "gotcha" question, I was going to tell you about it ahead of time and I consider what Senator Franken asked Sessions at that late moment that that story just come out is a gotcha question.

FRANKEN: It was not a gotcha question, sir.

GRASSLEY: It was, from the standpoint that he didn't know what you were asking about.

FRANKEN: But I said that as I was asking the question.

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