Minnesota Senator Al Franken on Tuesday tore into his Senate colleague Jeff Sessions during Sessions’ confirmation hearing to be the next Attorney General.
While during earlier sessions, Franken had focused on Sessions civil rights record, suggesting that he had not been honest in portraying his record on civil rights in his disclosure forms, in the afternoon, he focused on newly surfaced intelligence reports that Russia had accumulated compromising information on President-elect Trump and that members of Trump’s team had been in contact with Russia during the campaign.
Franken confronted Sessions with Trump’s statements, saying that “President-elect Trump has remained persistently skeptical” about the consensus of the U.S. Intelligence Community. “Last month he called reports of the Russian hacking ‘ridiculous’ and ‘another excuse for the Democratic loss.’ He said ‘it could be someone sitting on a bed somewhere.'” He added “To my mind, it’s absolutely extraordinary to see a president-elect so publicly refuting and without evidence, so far as I can tell, the assessment of our intelligence agencies.”
“Why do you think that President-elect Trump has been so unwilling to acknowledge Russian involvement in the hacking?”
Sessions dodged the question by saying “I’m not able to comment on the President-elect’s comments about it.”
Franken then confronted Sessions with a report that CNN had just published.
Shortly prior to Franken’s questioning, CNN reported that as part of the intelligence briefing provided to both President Obama and President-elect Trump last week, intelligence officials had provided information about Russian efforts to compromise the President-elect.
Multiple U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the briefing have told CNN that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Trump. The report added that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.
The allegations were presented in a two page synopsis that was added to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose part work U.S. intelligence officials consider credible. The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of the allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources.
The Senator, after reading relevant portions of the report to Sessions, asked “if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian governemnt in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”
Sessions, again, dodged the communication only extricating himself from the process. He said “I have no information on this matter. I have not been in on the classified briefings and I’m not a member of the intelligence committee. I’m just not able to give you any comment at this time.”
Franken then continued on grilling Sessions about allegations made by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the President-elect’s seeming support of Assange despite the fact that he contradicts all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, and despite the fact that Trump has in the past said that Assange was deserving of the death penalty.