Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the new deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, suggested Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions deserves jail time for failing to mention his meetings with Russia’s ambassador during his confirmation hearing in January.
In a statement issued Thursday morning, Ellison asserted that Sessions “lied under oath” in his Jan. 10 Senate confirmation hearing about the meetings with Kremlin’s diplomat, Sergey Kislyak.
“Since it has now come to light that Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied under oath about meeting with Russian officials during the campaign, we must be entirely clear on one thing: perjury is a felony and may be punishable by prison for up to five years,” said Ellison.
Sessions announced Thursday afternoon that he is recusing himself from any Justice Department and FBI investigations involving activities of the Donald Trump presidential campaign, on which the Republican served as an adviser.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that last year, when Sessions was still serving as a senator, he had two encounters with Kislyak. One meeting occurred on Sept. 8 in Sessions’ Senate office. The other was on the sidelines of an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation in July. Numerous other ambassadors were in attendance.
In his confirmation testimony, Sessions responded to a question from his then-colleague, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, about whether he had any contacts with Russian government officials during the presidential campaign. Franken framed the question by citing a breaking story from CNN that some Trump campaign advisers may have had contacts with Russian operatives.
Sessions said that, as a Trump “surrogate,” he did not have any such contacts.
Democrats on Thursday insisted that Sessions lied by denying having contacts with Russian officials. Some called for Sessions’ recusal while others called for his resignation. Ellison appears to be the first to mention the prospect of a prison stint.
Sessions said in his statement that he did nothing wrong and did not purposely misled his colleagues. He pointed out that Franken’s question was framed in terms of any meetings in his capacity on the campaign. He said that as a senator and member of the Armed Services Committee he routinely met with foreign diplomats.
In a press conference Thursday afternoon he said that he met with Ukraine’s ambassador the day before he met with Kislyak.