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Democrats Sought Inquiry of Testimony by Sessions at His Confirmation Hearing


Senators Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Al Franken of Minnesota wrote letters asking the F. B. I. to investigate whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions perjured himself.
WASHINGTON — Two Democratic senators disclosed on Thursday that they had asked James B. Comey, the former F. B. I. director, to open a criminal investigation into whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions perjured himself when he falsely said at his confirmation hearing that he “did not have communications with the Russians” last year.
The senators, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Al Franken of Minnesota, released three letters to the F. B. I. that they privately sent in March, April and May. The letters also showed they had been expecting a briefing from Mr. Comey on May 12 but never got it because President Trump abruptly fired Mr. Comey three days earlier.
“We served with the attorney general in the Senate and on the Judiciary Committee for many years, ” Mr. Franken and Mr. Leahy said in a joint statement accompanying the release of their letters. “We know he would not tolerate dishonesty if he were in our shoes. If it is determined that the attorney general still has not been truthful with Congress and the American people about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, he needs to resign.”
The dispute centers on Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation testimony in January given by Mr. Sessions, when he told Mr. Franken that he did not have any contacts with Russians last year. In fact, Mr. Sessions met at least twice in 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak: once at a reception at the Republican National Convention in July, and in Mr. Sessions’s Senate office in September.
A day after The Washington Post reported those meetings on March 1, Mr. Sessions recused himself from overseeing the criminal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with it. The case is now being overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, although he has appointed a special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, a former F. B. I. director, to handle it.
But Mr. Sessions, who as a senator from Alabama was an early and staunch supporter of Mr. Trump, has insisted that his answer to Mr. Franken was correct when viewed in context because he was responding to a question about Trump campaign contacts with Russians. Mr. Sessions said he considered himself to have met with Mr. Kislyak in his role as a senator, not his role as a Trump campaign surrogate.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee had already made public their own letter to Mr. Comey on March 2 asking for an investigation of Mr. Sessions’s meetings. The disclosure on Thursday showed that at least two senators were also pressing the F. B. I. for an inquiry, which could be a topic that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee ask Mr. Comey about in public testimony expected to be given before that panel next week.
The letters showed Mr. Franken and Mr. Leahy had also asked the F. B. I. to look into a March 8 report in The Huffington Post suggesting that Mr. Sessions and Mr. Kislyak might have had a third meeting in April 2016, when both attended an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. The Justice Department has said Mr. Sessions did not speak with Mr. Kislyak at that reception.
“The facts haven’ t changed; the then-Senator did not have any private or side conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel, ” Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.

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