Two influential Senate Democrats disclosed Thursday that they had privately asked former FBI Director James Comey to investigate all contacts and communications that Attorney General Jeff Sessions or his aides may have had with officials from the Russian government — and raised the issue of whether Sessions had committed perjury in his Senate testimony.
The revelation from Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Al Franken of Minnesota come a day after CNN reported that investigators are looking into whether Sessions had a third, previously-undisclosed meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential campaign last year.
Sessions was forced to step aside from federal Russia investigations earlier this year when the Washington Post reported that the former Alabama senator had met twice with the Russian ambassador, even though he testified during his confirmation hearing in January that he “did not have communications with the Russians.”
CNN reported Wednesday that congressional investigators were now examining whether Sessions and Kislyak met a third time. In their first request to Comey, sent March 20, Leahy and Franken argued that Sessions’ testimony before the Judiciary Committee could be “construed as perjury.”
“We served with the attorney general in the Senate and on the Judiciary Committee for many years,” Leahy and Franken said in a joint statement Thursday. “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.”
Earlier this year, Franken said Sessions needed to resign from his post if he had lied under oath about his communications with Russian officials. Leahy, a former Judiciary Committee chairman, had not previously made similar calls.
Franken and Leahy had both pressed Sessions, through written questions and during his confirmation hearing, whether Sessions had communications with Russian officials during the campaign. Sessions testified that he had not, although the Justice Department said the attorney general met with Kislyak in his capacity as a senator after the initial meetings were disclosed.
The Democratic senators also asked acting FBI director Andrew McCabe to brief them on the matter after Comey’s abrupt firing last month. Comey is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next Thursday, although neither Franken nor Leahy sits on that panel. Leaders on the Judiciary Committee have also requested Comey testify before that panel.